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Do Pastors Have The Right To Privacy On Social Media?

Thanks to Paul from OurChurch for the heads up on are several excerpts from the post....

In a move that screams “we fear what we do not understand” the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church is requiring its clergy to sign a “MySpace, Facebook and Website Disclosure Agreement.”

The agreement requires clergy to “agree to allow the Kentucky Annual Conference to examine any and all MySpace, Facebook, or other blog and website accounts that I may have.”

While the agreement clearly requires access to all text and media posted publicly to social media accounts, it’s not clear whether it requires access to private messages. The document says, it gives the KY conference permission to “examine any and all … accounts” and “access to any part of these accounts will not be blocked.” “Any part of these accounts” could reasonably interpreted to include private messages.

Paul makes these humorous yet poignant comments on how seemingly out of touch the KY conference is with social media:
A person has to wonder, however, whether the people who wrote the document and implemented the policy have much familiarity with social media. The policy is awfully concerned about MySpace, which hardly anyone still uses. The document also states the Kentucky Annual Conference can be found on Facebook at Really? It also asks for the pastor’s Facebook user name. Facebook doesn’t use usernames, unless you consider that to be the part of the URL that follows
Let me add my two cents to this issue.

  • When I council organizations to create and implement social media policies, I always advise "principle drive" policies that give "guidelines" but don't implement narrow rules and regulations on the use of social media.  To govern social media with narrow rules, trying to anticipate every scenario - is not to understand social media.
  • It appears to me  as if the KY conference is reacting to some specific issue or incident...because it seems as if the policy hasn't been completely thought out (nor does it appear that social media is completely understood by the leaders in the KY conference).  Never construct policies that are reactive!
  • I understand that the KY conference is trying to bring about accountability.  I have no problem with accountability...but the best accountability is the type that a person willingly submits to.  When an organization institutes heavy handed policies, rules and restrictions, it is either going to push bad behavior further underground or it is simply going to create conformity externally but never deal with the heart level issues.


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