Key point 4-02.02. Ministers are considered "public figures" and as a result they cannot be defamed unless the person making an otherwise defamatory remark did so with malice. In this context, malice means that the person making the defamatory remark either had actual knowledge that it was false or made it with a reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity.
Since a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1964, New York Times Co., v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964). it has become much more difficult for public figures to prove defamation. The courts reason that when people voluntarily thrust themselves into the public eye, they must expect to be the target of criticism. In addition to the other elements of defamation summarized in the preceding section, public figures must prove that defamatory statements were made with malice. Although few courts have addressed the question, it is ...
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