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A Church’s Insurer Was Not Obligated to Provide a Legal Defense for Congregant Facing a Lawsuit

Defamatory remarks made by a lay member on social media were not authorized by the church and therefore not covered by its insurance policy.


Key point 6-06.02. Officers and directors must be legally authorized to act on behalf of their church. Legal authority can be express, implied, inherent, or apparent. In addition, a church can ratify the unauthorized actions of its officers or directors, but this is not required.

A federal court in California ruled that a church’s insurance policy was not obligated to provide a legal defense to a lay member of the church’s council. The member was sued for defamatory remarks he posted on the website Yelp regarding the quality of services provided by a contractor to the church.


In 2018, a company installed solar panels at a church. Dissatisfied with the purported lack of savings in the church’s energy bills promised by the company, a church member (the “defendant”) began investigating the church’s energy usage.

When the company was not sufficiently ...

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  • May 11, 2022

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