Key point 4-02.02. Ministers are considered "public figures" and as a result they cannot be defamed unless the person making an otherwise defamatory remark did so with malice. In this context, malice means that the person making the defamatory remark either had actual knowledge that it was false or made it with a reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity.
A Louisiana court ruled that a church and members of the church board were guilty of defaming a former pastor. A church's treasurer, board chairman, and three church members visited the church's bank to obtain information on the church's finances because the church was planning on building a new sanctuary. They were advised by the bank that the church had a $50,000 certificate of deposit ("CD"). At a meeting of the church board, the church's pastor was unable to identify the source of the CD and was asked to step down as pastor. He repeatedly informed the church board that he did not steal any money from the church and that the CD did not belong to the church.