Q: Are ministries allowed to remove disruptive people?
A: Churches are private property owners, so they can restrict access to their property.
Case law supports the notion that churches are not required to allow anyone to enter or remain on their property simply because their ministries are open to the public. When a ministry has reason to believe that a person will disrupt its service or activity, the ministry may either deny access or require the person to leave.
If a group of demonstrators crosses your property line, you have the right to ask demonstrators to leave. You may not be able to quell the protest entirely, but you can at least move protesters away from your property and people. It’s best to send a single spokesperson with one or two observers to communicate this request as far from your building as possible. While demonstrators are being asked to leave, another ministry worker should call police for assistance.
Once you have communicated your desire for demonstrators to leave your property, allow police to enforce trespassing laws. Do not attempt to physically remove demonstrators from the property. If police response is delayed, workers can lock doors or find other ways to prevent access to your building by demonstrators. It will be much more difficult to get demonstrators out of your building once they gain access.
If you found this information helpful, you might be interested in these other resources from Brotherhood Mutual:
- Learn how to deal with group demonstrations in our article, Handling Protests at Church.
- Improve your ability to address outbursts that occur during services by reading Dealing with Disruptive Individuals.
- Develop a strategy for talking with reporters about a disruptive incident in our article, Dealing with the Media During a Crisis.
- Download our Demonstration Response Checklist.
*Important information: Brotherhood Mutual is pleased to provide LegalAssistance as a complimentary resource. The services we offer through LegalAssistance are intended to provide general legal information to our current and prospective policyholders.
The information we provide is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. Accordingly, no attorney/client relationship is created through this process, and no legal advice will be provided. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.
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