Church Legal Center
Rev. John P. Joseph, Esq. CCA
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St. Petersburg, FL 33713
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Church is Sued for Publication of Baptism Leading to Kidnapping

The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently decided a church court case. In John Doe v. First Presbyterian Church U.S.A. of Tulsa, Oklahoma and James D. Miller (Okla. Feb. 22, 2017), a nonmember filed suit against the church and its minister, alleging torts and breach of contract after he was baptized and notice of his baptism was published on the internet, resulting in his alleged kidnapping and torture by extremists while traveling in Syria. The man alleged he made the church aware of the need for confidentiality throughout the conversion process. The court ruled in the church favor stating the church autonomy doctrine precludes the plaintiff’s court action against the church.

Although the church won on appeal it is a timely reminder whether it is in your ministries best interest to televise, post, and or publicly name or show persons coming forward to accept Christ or being baptized. We can all agree making a public declaration is important – but does this mean it is a good idea for leadership to publish such an event?

A couple years ago I spoke with a staff pastor who sought my counsel when a member of their church posted a video on his Twitter account of an altar call at his church. The member did not realize a Muslim man was in the group who came forward in the video to accept Christ. Somehow his family discovered the video. Not long after- he received a death threat from his family. May I advise using wisdom in these matters.

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