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Who Can See Giving Records?

Q: Can a pastor or members of the church board inspect the contribution records of members?

A: This is a controversial question. Many pastors do not want to see donor records since they do not want this information to influence their relationship with individual members. Others want to see them.

Why would a pastor and church board want to inspect the records? One legally justifiable reason might be to enforce a bylaw requirement that members "tithe" or make some other specified financial commitment to the church. The far more common wording in church covenants that members "support the church financially" is an ambiguous standard that would not warrant accessing an individual's records.

If a state's nonprofit corporation law does not specifically authorize pastors and board members to inspect individual members' contribution records, then doing so could expose the church to possible liability for invasion of privacy.

Few churches will want to make ...

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