(Published in the Fall/Winter of 2009 Newsletter)
Today, sad to say, people are often looking for trouble, and that trouble often finds its way into a courtroom. Sadly, the Church is not exempt from this trend. A seemingly harmless activity like a prayer chain is now a potential powder keg of litigation. The defamation and invasion of privacy claims may stem from “sharing” prayer requests with others. Thus, intimate details ranging from a person’s health and employment, to marital and abuse situations are often freely discussed. What’s the Church to do? As most of the prayer chain lists have been modernized, the following recommendations apply to computer chains, though the principles apply to other methods as well.
First, have a prayer chain coordinator or two who will be responsible for collecting, disseminating, and filtering, as necessary, all requests to be shared with the chains’ participants. Second, limit the prayer chain users to those who are members of your church. Members sharing details about members will enjoy greater legal protection than members sharing details about non-members. Third, be sure that, prior to using the prayer chain, all participants give written consent to do so. Among other things, this consent will include their agreement to abide by the rules of the prayer chain and to specifically authorize that their requests be made known to the prayer chain. A release of the Church against claims others may make as a result of the participant’s actions may also be in order. You can view a copy of our proposed Prayer Chain Request, Authorization and Release form on our web site ( www.YourLawFirmForLife.com, at our “Resources” tab, under “Church Forms,” or call to request a copy.
Finally, the prayer chain coordinator will work to insure that the participants are informed of the rules and guidelines, as well as any subsequent changes, and will also oversee the dissemination of information to reduce the likelihood of outside legal claims.
NOTE: The contents of this Newsletter are not intended to be, nor should they be taken as, specific legal advice as each situation is different. Please contact a lawyer with any questions you may have.
The Church Law attorneys at Trinity Law can help. Contact us now by calling, toll free, 1-866-464-5297.