Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Dealing with Disruptive Individuals During Church
While one court says a restraining order isn’t permissible, other courts are divided on this issue.

Key point 7-17. Churches do not have to tolerate persons who disrupt religious services. Church leaders can ask a court to issue an order barring the disruptive person from the church’s premises. If the person violates the order, he or she may be removed from church premises by the police, and may be found to be in contempt of court.

An Illinois court refused to issue a restraining order barring a disruptive person from attending church.

The church had sought a restraining order against a man (the “defendant”) for multiple acts of harassment against the church, including:

  1. Distributing disparaging letters on the windshields of automobiles in the church parking lot during one of its morning services.
  2. Distributing similar letters on a second occasion. He was confronted by a staff member and asked to leave, to which he declared he had a right to be there.
  3. Ten years of repeated attempts to attack the reputation of the church and its pastor.

The letters stated that the church is “a corrupt church that needs to be thoroughly exposed . . . and is a disgrace to Christianity” because the pastor refused to suggest marital counseling when defendant’s wife left him after 40 years of marriage. The letters cite the church as an example of “how the devil gets into churches.” The defendant distributed the letters “door-to-door” to neighbors and in vehicles parked at nearby commercial establishments.

The church went to court seeking a restraining order banning the defendant from “communicating, publishing, or communicating, in any form, any writing naming or regarding [the pastor], his family, or any employee, staff, or member of the congregation of” the church. A trial judge granted the temporary restraining order but this ruling was reversed by a state appeals court. The court concluded:

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