Why your Church needs a Privacy Statement

Tired of political groups filling up your U.S. snail mail box with letters to your 12 year old daughter?  Irritated with self-employed church members spamming you with the latest gift-basket craze? If so, then perhaps your church is lacking a privacy statement to protect contact information you submitted to the church’s sunday school enrollment or pictoral directory.

Last week, the North Carolina Republican Party asked members to send their church directories to the party. The result were complaints from groups whose demographics would normally be supportive of the GOP – including this barb by Rev. Richard Land, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:

“Such a request is completely beyond the pale of what is acceptable …”

I agree – for two reasons. First, it can potentially endanger a church’s tax-free status by involving it in a political campaign; especially if a directory or mailing list was forwarded by a well-meaning staff member.

The Rev. Richard Byrd Jr. of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro addresses my second point when he said anyone sending in a directory:

“[it] would be betraying the trust of the membership …”

And this is why your church needs a clear and concise privacy statement that either in whole or in part should be conspicuously published on the introduction page of any hard-copy directory and as a user-agreement form on any electronic directory.

Now not being a lawyer, I went about and did a search on the topic. As you might expect, alot of legalese. But I did find one or two sites that either provide an explanation of your obligations and/or provide forms and/or templates for generating your own privacy statement. Here you go, in no particular order:

The bottom line is, failure to create and publish such a policy leaves your church little recourse in protecting the privacy rights of your congregation and open up your church’s data to all sorts of spammage whether it is to pimp-up a political campaign, or hustle Tupperware and Mary Kay by some of the more entrepreneurial members of your congregation.

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It doesn’t pay to fool Uncle Google

I’m old enough to remember an ad for a butter-like margarine product whose pitch was “it doesn’t pay to fool mother nature.” The gag was usually in the form of Mom Nat. sitting on a log serenely sitting with bunnies, birdies and other Disney-like characters when she’d dip into a tub of the mock dairy product … only to conjure up angry storms upon discovering she’d been fooled.

Well it looks like BMW may be feeling similarly slammed as all their links to their German websites were pulled after they apparently tried to fool ‘Uncle Google’ with the use of a search engine spammer technique known ‘doorway pages.’ At least that’s how it’s being reported in yesterday’s Financial Times.

BMW rationalized their actions with:

“Marc Hassinger, spokesperson for business and finance communications at BMW Deutschland, said the BMW.de doorway pages only redirected users to relevant pages – for example, one doorway page that frequently used the German word for “used car” redirected users to a page about BMW used car sales. He said this was done so that German web users searching for a second-hand BMW car dealership would find an index of dealerships around the country.”

Sounds like some of the lame excuses I’d hear from a teen who’s caught in the wrong cabin during a youth retreat. To which I’d often reply with Numbers 32:23:

“… ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.”

In other words BMW thought they were above Google’s clearly stated terms of service and webmaster guidelines. They got caught.

If your church website is playing similar search-engine games, expect similar results.

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Yes, in fact is is WordPress and …

Yes, in fact the final decision was indeed to use WordPress.

Though I did have to re-read-up on the ‘split’ command to import/convert the vast array of MT posts.

Now I just need to figure out a few theme thingies – and figure out how to path new stuff v. old stuff and we’ll be good to get started again.

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