On every ward’s roster are a few zz’s, people who have requested no contact. In different wards, I’ve gotten different messages about these folks. In some wards, clerk/bishop/EQP/etc will say something like, “we can’t talk to Bro. Jones. We’re legally prohibited from talking to him.”
Is that true?
It sounds ominous enough. And of course, there might be any number of good prudential reasons to avoid knocking on the door of the zzJoneses. But are there truly legal constraints?
Start by stipulating that we’re talking about basic contact here. Other acts might, it seems, be actionable. I’ve read cases involving successful claims for public disclosure of private sins — “hey everyone, look at Bro. Jones, he slept with his neighbor, he’s sure a sinner.”
But what about the phone call, can your home teachers come by, the plate of cookies, the bishop stopping by to say hi? Are those acts prohibited?
Really, I’m not sure what U.S. federal or state law(s) those actions would violate. Is there a common-law harassment tort that would apply? (I don’t think there is, but I could be wrong.) Is there a statutory tort, such as stalking? (But would that be limited to specific individuals?) Trespassing might apply, but that would only cover physical trespass — so a phone call from a home teacher probably isn’t covered (is it?).
What about some of the more exotic torts? Intentional infliction of emotional distress? That tends to be strictly limited in most jurisdictions (right?). Invasion of privacy? Again, I’m not sure all of the tort elements would be met by mere contact.
Even in the statutory realm, I wonder. To what extent is the church constrained by the same statutes as other organizations? (For example, charities are exempt from the national Do-Not-Call list.)
I’m drawing a blank. Absent an injunction, I wonder — are we actually legally prohibited from talking to Bro. Jones?
Also, is the ad hoc system itself evidence of a lack of true legal constraint? That is, if there really are legal limitations, then shouldn’t the church have a better system in place than random zz’s, which seem unreliable as they would tend to be read differently by every Bishop or EQP? (Are they a hard-and-fast rule, or just a guideline? Do they expire?)
(Note: This is all U.S.-centric. What kind of limitations exist in other countries? I don’t know, really, but I suspect that some other countries have much more severe limits, for various reasons. The church is still legally treated as a suspect religion in some heavily Catholic countries; also, some other countries have a much less expansive view of free speech than the U.S. But non-U.S. law is outside my area of expertise.)
If (as I suspect), the church isn’t actually legally constrained (at least in the U.S.) from contacting disgruntled inactive members, is there any legal recourse that Bro. zzJones could bring against missionaries/home teachers/etc. knocking on his door and inviting him to the Ward Christmas Party? I realize that he could file a suit, but would it have any chance of succeeding, if the sole allegation is unwanted contact?
Is anyone aware of lawsuits that have been filed over do-not-contact claims? What kinds of tort or statutory claims were asserted in those lawsuits? Have any succeeded?