Church office staff members often learn personal, and sometimes embarrassing, facts about other individuals. When it comes to passing on information, an administrator may feel confused or experience tension about what to say and to whom. Defamation can occur in situations in which the alleged offender is acting in what he or she believes is the best interests of the church. In fact, that often is the case.
A defamatory statement is an oral or written statement about another person; that is false; that is published (that is, communicated to a sufficient number of other persons to affect the other person's reputation); and that injures the other person's reputation. It's also important to remember that defamation involves injury to another's reputation rather than feelings. Not every derogatory statement is defamatory. Examples of a defamatory statement include statements concerning suspected embezzlement by a church employee, allegations of sexual misconduct by a staff member or volunteer, or explanations of why a church employee was dismissed.