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Ecclesiology discuss Church membership question in the Theological Forum forums; I heard today that legally another church cannot tell another church why a member was under discipline. Apparently if a pastor calls a former church ...

  1. #1
    CIT
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    Church membership question

    I heard today that legally another church cannot tell another church why a member was under discipline. Apparently if a pastor calls a former church to inquire about a member wanting to join his congregation, the former church can only say, "They left in good/bad standing."

    Is this true?
    B

  2. #2
    C. M. Sheffield's Avatar
    C. M. Sheffield is offline. Puritanboard Sophomore
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    No. The church that the person is coming from is free to share as much or as little information as they like.

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    Zenas's Avatar
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    Dunno why they wouldn't be free to say.
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    Contra_Mundum's Avatar
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    Sounds like they are assuming that laws pertaining to employers (who cannot tell a later potential employer if they terminated an applicant for cause or why) apply to any and all organizations--clubs, societies, churches, etc.

    Such an assumption is not true. And if it was, I can't imagine that faithful churches would obey a law that required them to go against conscience and the Word of God.
    Rev. Bruce G. Buchanan
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    CIT
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    Good to know guys. Thanks for the insight.
    B

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    Scottish Lass's Avatar
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    Bruce beat me to my first thought, but since congregants aren't employees, I can't imagine how it could be applicable.
    Anna
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    Edward's Avatar
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    Honesty may draw a lawsuit. Even if the church wins, it can get expensive. And while truth is a defense to libel or slander, it may not be a defense to an invasion of privacy suit. The church should probably work with a local attorney to draft a policy on disclosure of information, make the policy known to the congregation, and then strictly follow that policy. That should lessen the risk. Dealing with the situation on an ad hoc basis is usually the most dangerous approach.
    Edward
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  8. #8
    Jack K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward View Post
    Honesty may draw a lawsuit. Even if the church wins, it can get expensive. And while truth is a defense to libel or slander, it may not be a defense to an invasion of privacy suit. The church should probably work with a local attorney to draft a policy on disclosure of information, make the policy known to the congregation, and then strictly follow that policy. That should lessen the risk. Dealing with the situation on an ad hoc basis is usually the most dangerous approach.
    At a church I was part of members signed a paper acknowledging this. As you suggest, the legal concern was not slander (truth is a defense) but invasion of privacy. Our society generally doesn't understand how what happens in one church can be any other church's business.
    Jack K.
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    SolaSaint's Avatar
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    I served as a clerk of a SBC church and was instructed to send specific information to churches that requested a letter of transfer. Of course this was only for within the SBC. I thought it was very important but never considered legal ramifications.
    Rick
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    VictorBravo's Avatar
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    I'm guessing that some churches have insurance agents who tell them this. I'm thinking of a case I handled representing a Lutheran church that handled a discipline case badly and got sued. It was dismissed on our argument that the state had no business adjudicating a church discipline issue, but it did cost the insurance company litigation expenses.

    But people and organizations can be sued for all sorts of invalid reasons. That shouldn't make a church afraid to do what it is obligated to do.
    R. Victor Bottomly
    Port Cities Reformed Baptist Church, Lewiston ID

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