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Defamation Claim Dismissed Due to Church’s “Qualified Privilege”

Case illustrates a protection church leaders may receive when communicating negative information with members—but caution must be exercised.

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.

Key point 4-02.03. Several defenses are available to one accused of defamation. These include truth, statements made in the course of judicial proceedings, consent, and self-defense. In addition, statements made to church members about a matter of common interest to members are protected by a “qualified privilege,” meaning that they cannot be defamatory unless they are made with malice. In this context, malice means that the person making the statements knew that they were false or made them with a reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity. This privilege will not apply if the statements are made to nonmembers.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the “qualified privilege” insulated a church from ...

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Posted:
  • March 11, 2022