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Church Liability for Publishing Information Online
Church Liability for Publishing Information Online
Despite dismissal, case shows precautions churches should take when handling private information.

An adult Muslim male (the "plaintiff") was converted to Christianity at a Presbyterian church in Oklahoma, and was thereafter baptized. The plaintiff alleges that he made the church and its pastor (the "defendants") aware of the need for confidentiality throughout the conversion process, as he was planning to return to Syria. The plaintiff was baptized during a service that was open to members and guests of the church, but it was not broadcasted live. The church, however, later posted a recording of the baptism on its website. The plaintiff was not, and never became, a member of the defendant church before or after his baptism. Doe v. Presbyterian Church, 2017 WL 712811 (Okla. 2017).

Following his baptism, the plaintiff travelled to Syria. Radical Muslims in Damascus who had heard of his conversion on the internet confronted him shortly after his arrival. The plaintiff claims that he was kidnapped, bound, blindfolded, beaten, and informed that he was going to be put to death as a result of his conversion. He was tortured and forced into a 55-gallon electrified drum for long stretches of time. After several days, he was informed that his death sentence was to be carried out by beheading. He was ultimately able to free his hands, acquire a firearm, and use it to escape, killing his uncle in the process. Shortly afterward, he was stabbed in the chest by his cousin as retribution for the death of the uncle. The plaintiff claimed that he was able to clandestinely make it back to the United States, where he faces continuous death threats. He claims to have suffered numerous physical and psychological injuries, all due to the defendants' publication of his baptism, contrary to the promises they supposedly made to him that it would be kept confidential.

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