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Sam, Attorney at Law
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 27011
Experience:  More than 20 years of experience practicing law.
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Is it legal church pastor to share personal, private

Customer Question

Is it legal for a church pastor to share personal, private emails (from a church member) to the church board? Without the permission of that church member.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Sam replied 2 years ago.
This is Samuel and I will discuss this and provide you information in this regard
Can you tell me how the pastor got the information and why is it being shared?
Thank you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I am on the church board, my wife is in the middle of a dispute with the pastor. They have exchanged several email threads. At a board meeting during which I was not present, this pastor shared a partial thread of an email that was private.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The sharing of this email showed an improper bias that portrayed my wife in a very negative light as brick was reported back to me.
Expert:  Sam replied 2 years ago.
HelloThank you. Unfortunately, if the email was sent to the Pastor, it belongs to him. That means he can do what he wants to with it and does not need permission to share or disseminate what was in the email. Emails are handled the same way as first class mail via the US postal system. Once it gets into the hands of the intended recipitant they own it.
Expert:  Sam replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for that information. However, if your wife intended for the Pastor to get the email, then it is his to do with what he wants. There are no crimes committed, nor is there a basis for any civil lawsuit action.
Expert:  Sam replied 2 years ago.
In the same manner your wife can use any email that he has sent to her in any manner she wants to and share it with whomever she wants to.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Okay what if the pastor shared intimate private details about a third person. This information was not intended to be public. There are actually two items:1. A porn addiction by a church member
2. Sharing a tithing amount of a church member.Our question is this information seems delicate and should be private between those members and the pastor.
Expert:  Sam replied 2 years ago.
HelloThank youIf it was in the email and the email was intended for him - he did not steal the email - he can release the information. Unfortunate as it is for the two innocents involved in this email and probably bad taste on the part of the pastor to reveal the information, there is nothing illegal about it. It belongs to him. Now, if the persons mentioned in the email feel that what has been said is not true and correct and being told with malice, then they would have a basis for a possible defamation lawsuit against your wife and also the pastor.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you. Very clear. What if the above same topics are discussed, not around any emails but rather in live sharing, with witnesses. The pastor simply discusses the tithe and porn subjects not relating to emails.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I'm sorry but I misspoke, there were two items, the email from my wife was one, and the two subjects above another. I am concerned that this is similar to counseling confidentiality. The subject with porn addiction was confiding in the pastor. The tithe seems also very private.
Expert:  Sam replied 2 years ago.
I suggest that the pastor may be acting unethically, but there are no crimes. His behavior should be reported to the church up echelon. But there is no cause of action in a court other than if the information is false and it is knowingly disseminated as truth the persons subject of the information can sue for defamation