by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Defamation

§ 10.15
Key point 10-15. The First Amendment limits, but does not eliminate, a church's liability for defamation.

Defamation consists of the following elements:

(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

If the words are oral, the defamation is sometimes called slander. If the words are written, the defamation may be referred to as libel. Although this terminology is still widely used, there is a tendency to refer to both slander and libel as defamation.

The courts have been reluctant to subject churches to civil liability on the basis of defamation. In many cases, this reluctance is rooted in the ...

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