Visitor Question

Defamation of character by a Bishop?

Submitted By: A (USA)

A Bishop stood before the Church and told the congregation that God said a family is trying to get their Mother’s inheritance, but they won’t have it because it will go to the Church. He also called the family members devils for wanting to do this.

The statement was not true and has affected the family in a very bad way, to the point that they are estranged from their Mother and each other.

One of the family members had to get psychological treatment.

Is there anything that can be done about this? Is this defamation? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear A,

Defamation is generally defined as a libelous or slanderous statement which is patently untrue, and as a direct result of that defamation a person suffers economic loss. In addition, that statement must have been communicated to at least one third party.

Libel is normally a written communication. This could be a letter, email, text or other similar communication in which the libelous statement is disseminated.

Slander is normally a spoken communication. This could be a recorded message, a direct message or similar verbal communication. Here too, the statement must be made to at least one third party.

With that said, truth is an absolute defense. For example, if an individual tells a church congregation his congregation member John Doe is a thief, and John Doe had previously been convicted in court of having committed the crime of theft, then the statement would not constitute defamation.

In your case, if there was a will, or a court order which bequeathed the inheritance to the church, then the statement by the leader of the congregation would not constitute defamation.

Even if the money was not bequeathed to the church, calling you or a family member a “devil” would likely not constitute defamation. This would be supported by the lack of financial loss.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: October 21, 2014

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