Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “We often don’t think about our confidential responsibility when sharing prayer requests. But we should. This story illustrates that we can inadvertently offend those we are trying to help.”
Man Sues Church for Being Put on Prayer List
by Raul Rivera, September 5, 2012, published by the “Church Compliance & Ministry Empowerment Conference” by StartCHURCH
When publishing prayer requests, a church needs to consider the legal consequences of such a list. Is it possible for the list to publish information regarding the private lives of its members that should be kept private? That is exactly what happened to a church in Ohio. In the case MITNAUL, v. FAIRMOUNT PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, Mr. Mitnaul argued that the church’s publication of his medical condition was a violation of his privacy. The church posted the following entry on its website.
“We have good news for you! Bryan Mitnaul is returning to Fairmount after a long medical leave of absence. Since the summer of last year, Bryan has been treated for bi-polar illness; a condition that at times has resulted in serious depression for him. Various therapies and medications have been tried, and finally, after much experimentation, his health has improved considerably. For that we are all very happy.”
After his recovery he filed a suit against the church, claiming the church invaded his privacy. The court ruled that “An actionable invasion of the right to privacy is the . . . publicizing of one’s private affairs with which the public has no legitimate concern, or the wrongful intrusion into one’s private activities in such a manner as to outrage or cause mental suffering, shame, or humiliation to a person of ordinary sensibilities.” The appeals court, in approving his claim for trial, stated, “Information about his bi-polar illness could be viewed as offensive or objectionable to a reasonable person.”
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