Pastors Who Are Sued for Making Defamatory Statements
Key point 4-02.01. Ministers may be liable for making defamatory statements if a civil court can resolve the dispute without any inquiry into church doctrine or polity.
Ministers may be liable for defamation if they communicate false statements to other persons that injure the reputation of another. To illustrate, in one case a minister publicly stated that a member of his congregation had a "vile spirit and utter disrespect for leadership," and declared that another member had associated himself with a pastor who "under the role of minister of Jesus, is one of Satan's choicest tools." A court found such remarks to be defamatory. Brewer v. Second Baptist Church, 197 P.2d 713 (Cal. 1948). In another notable case, a Roman Catholic archbishop was found guilty of defaming a priest by publicly referring to him as an "irresponsible and insane" person who was ...
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