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Responding to Anonymous Allegations

An unknown party seriously accuses a church leader. What should be done?

Many ministers have received anonymous letters. Some, such as those expressing criticism of a sermon or music, have little legal significance. But some accuse a staff member or volunteer of misconduct, and these messages may be legally significant depending on what they communicate and how they are handled.

Church leaders should consider the following points when deciding how to respond to anonymous letters that accuse someone of misconduct:

Ignoring anonymous letters

Some pastors adopt a policy of never reading anonymous letters, and some periodically inform the congregation of this policy. For some, this is a way of avoiding criticism. But for others it stems from a conviction that the views of persons who are unwilling to identify themselves are not worthy of consideration. But as noted below, such a response to anonymous letters may expose a pastor and church to liability.

Zimmerman, 2012 ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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  • October 13, 2016

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