Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Pastor's Letter to Congregation about Former Member's Lawsuit Was Not Defamatory Due to Factual Nature
Tennessee
State:
Categories:
Key point 4-02. Defamation consists of (1) oral or written statements about another person; (2) that are false; (3) that are "published" (that is, communicated to other persons); and (4) that injure the other person's reputation.
Key point 4-02.1. Ministers may be liable for making defamatory statements if a civil court can resolve the dispute without any inquiry into church doctrine or polity.

A Tennessee court ruled that a pastor had not defamed a former church member by sending an email to members of the congregation explaining the church's response to a recent lawsuit naming the church as a defendant. A former church member (the "plaintiff") brought several lawsuits against his former pastor and church in which he alleged that the church and its agents injured him in furtherance of actions to fraudulently conceal child sexual abuse by one of its members. In an attempt to apprise members of the church's position, the pastor wrote a letter to the congregation that was published in the church's email newsletter. The email stated as follows:

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Posted: October 24, 2016
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