Invasion of privacy is something that is a major concern among Americans. In this paper I will discuss Steve, who has recently joined a church. The church doctrine is such that members are to reveal indiscretions from their past. Steve has told them of some of his indiscretions but Steve is not happy about this and decides he would rather leave the church. The church leaders have told Steve even if he leaves his neighbors as well as members of the church will be notified of his past.
In this paper I will discuss which privacy torts are involved as well as if this is a libel case. I will also discuss whether the expectation of privacy applies to the facts of this case as well as the defenses to the tort and if there is a legal difference in disclosing personal indiscretions to members of the church, its’ elders and to the general public.
Invasion of privacy laws are in place to help regulate personal information of everyday private citizens to keep government organizations and also the private sector from gathering and storing information about them for use.
In Steve’s case it appears that the public disclosure of private facts tort would be involved mostly. The reason would be that the church would go forth with their statement to inform church members as well as neighbors. It seems that Steve’s case could not be considered libel due to the fact that the church has not went through with what they said they would do, they have only let Steve know that they have every intention of doing so. So conversely, had the church actually went through with their intentions Steve would indeed have a libel case. Also, there would even seem to be an intentional intrusion invasion of privacy tort because of the church’s guidelines in which they knew that they were going to gather Steve’s information. A
lso, if it is proven that distributing this information on a regular basis it could be considered libel. I also think that the levity of Steve’s information would need to be taken into consideration. It would be easier to pursue actions if what Steve disclosed something such as armed robbery or any number of felonies in which case the church may feel the need to notify the police. Had he told them of his pension to jay walking it would not hold as much weight if any. It should be noted that in this case should not be considered intentional intrusion invasion of privacy.
The reasoning for this would be that when we discuss this tort it should be noted that this involves delving into an individual’s private life or thoughts and being unauthorized. If however the church had gotten ahold of Steve’s information from listening in on his conversations with members of the church. It should also be noted that tort of appropriation is not a factor as well. The explanation for this is that the individual involved did not consent to his/her use of their picture or likeness or even their name for any type of personal gain.
According to the definition of expectation of privacy which is you expect privacy as society agreeing with you, Steve would not really be entitled as a result of the church not saying in words that privacy would be given. I think that Steve naturally thought that a church would keep his indiscretions to themselves. I think that the majority of people would be inclined to think the same however it is never safe to assume anything. A good example of an expectation of privacy could be in the Catholic Church. When an individual goes to confession they are expecting privacy so if that particular type of privacy is broken the individual would have a case. It is ironic in this case that it would be a church organization that would in fact disclose such information on their members when they have to know that their members, in most cases have blind faith in them. That may be a factor in which the church knows for a fact that their members will not contest nor dispute the church.
When we are discussing the defense to the tort of libel and the privacy tort it should be noted that since Steve gave his consent to the church organization unless Steve indeed thought that there would be privacy in his admissions. However in the scenario described above it almost seemed far too obvious that the church would respect Steve and not disclose the indiscretions that he admitted to them. When we discuss whether there is a legal difference in disclosing personal indiscretions to the church elders, neighbors and so on I have to say that yes indeed there is a difference. If for example an individual decides that he or she will divulge information about themselves to the public, then any and all of that information has then indeed become public knowledge.
Should however this same person divulge the information to members/elders of a church then it should be noted that something along the lines of doctor/patient or attorney/client privileges come into play. It should also be noted that those who are considered church elders or those that are considered up in the church are not required to be ordained or actual ministers to be an individual who would be known as a religious advisor. To conclude, it appears that this case may swing in both ways. While Steve can argue that his information is private and should not be given to others so freely, the church may counter that the information that it gathers is private and under the authorization of the church.