Thursday, October 20, 2011
I've been thinking a lot about slander lately. A particular issue is behind this (concerning a friend), but it has raised questions for me. Leaving aside legal aspects of libel and slander, let's consider the ethics of making allegations publicly or formally against someone. Here is the case-type: a person makes a report or accusation to a professional body alleging that another person is unfit for a job (ministry) because the accuser believes that there has been a moral offence sufficient under regulations to cause impediment to service. The accuser is not a direct witness but believes what others have said. The matter is investigated by the proper body and is found to be without evidence, no finding being recorded against the accused. The witnesses do not support the accusation. Should not the accuser now officially withdraw the allegation? If he does not or is not required to do so, then surely the Biblical sin of slander has been committed (Prov. 11:9; Lev. 19:16;Titus 3:2). The accuser may still personally believe in the truth of the accusation, despite the contrary evidence, but is he not duty-bound as a Christan to withdraw it? And surely the professional tribunal too is under an obligation to the accused to call on the accuser to do so? Failure to hold people accountable for their words leaves relationships broken and slurs remaining. In this scenario, the innocent person has been investigated but the person bringing the accusation has not been required to be accountable and to acknowledge that his accusation was false according to evidence.