In a recent article in the StartChurch Advisor newsletter, Raul Rivera points to an area in which churches could find themselves on the wrong side of the law:
Information about church members and non-members often ends up on a church prayer list. While a list is usually a good way for the church to lift those up to the Lord in prayer, it also must take into consideration the legalities and liabilities that could occur. Below is a list of things to consider when publishing a prayer list.
Website prayer list: When a church publishes anything online, the world is the potential audience. Therefore, leadership must consider who will have access to such information and what policies govern what is published.
1. The person making the post must state that he/she is whom he/she says.
2. The person making the post must state whether he/she is a member.
3. The person making the post must agree to have his/her name posted as the one making the request.
4. The person making the post is aware that church personnel will review the post and that the church reserves its right not to publish the request.
Church program/bulletin: Because this list has a limited audience, potential liability resulting from such a list is minimized. Praying for each other is a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith and courts are less likely to view such practice as invasive, especially if the church establishes implied consent.
Implied consent is different from written consent in that a person infers implied consent based on the facts and circumstances of a particular situation. Your church can establish implied consent by doing two things as described below.
1. Notice publications: This is useful in that it informs the church members and others who attend that from time to time the church publishes a prayer list, and that if anyone wishes not to be part of such list, he/she should please inform the church secretary.
2. Mutual interest clause: Amend the church’s constitution and bylaws to ensure the mutual interest clause is included. This clause states that actions whether in the church or out of the church are of mutual interest to the other members. This approach has the strongest foundation because anyone wishing to become a member should sign a membership application in which he or she agrees with church’s bylaws, which contain the mutual interest clause. (Click here to read the full article.)