A Supreme Court case to watch: Trinity Lutheran Church vs. Pauley

ThinkstockPhotos-493611935

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley, a 2013 lawsuit filed by the church after the state of Missouri rejected its application for a grant to replace its preschool’s playground pebbles with repurposed rubber from old tires.

The State’s grounds for denial? The preschool was ineligible because it was run by a church, citing an 1875 Missouri constitutional amendment — known as the Blaine Amendment — prohibiting public funds from being used “in aid of any church.”

Here, David O. Middlebrook — a founding shareholder of Anthony & Middlebrook and the Church Law Group in Grapevine, TX, and Church Executive “Legal Realities” Series author — offers his take on this potentially pivotal case for churches.

Share

3 myths of the 501(c)(3): When misunderstandings lead to misguidance

ThinkstockPhotos-466203577

At our Ultimate Church Structure Conferences, I speak with many pastors who, unfortunately, have been misinformed about what 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status truly means and the impact it will have on their churches. Pastors often attend our conference in the hopes of clearing up doubts and questions that they’ve been riddled with regarding tax law and church compliance. For that very reason, I have listed below three of the most common misconceptions that I hear from pastors across the country regarding churches and 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

Share

Examining organizational structure — including (and especially) church members’ rights

empty board room table

There are more than 400,000 churches in the United States, each with its own governance structure and decision-making model. With so many different models and terminology used to describe church governance structures — elders, deacons, trustees, directors, pastor and apostle — it can be quite confusing to determine what’s the best and most biblically-sound corporate structure for your own church.

Share

5 compliance challenges EVERY church leader needs to know about

ThinkstockPhotos-179717286

The landscape for churches and ministries is filled with pitfalls.

Over the last 20 years, Congress and the IRS have become very interested in the activities of churches, ministries and nonprofits, which has led to the enactment of section 4958 and the creation of the Exempt Organizations Executive Compensation Compliance Project, resulting in increased enforcement presence and millions of dollars in fines.

Share

Legal dos and don’t for pastors during an election year

VOTE

Since 1954, churches — and other nonprofits in America — have been prohibited from engaging in certain kinds of political activity. While these limitations might be an affront to the moral conscience of many pastors across America, it has become a way of life for 501(c)(3) organizations.

Share

The most expensive form of labor — volunteer labor

ankle

Not infrequently, pastors and their parish / congregational administrators, board and / or committee members are inclined to avail themselves of “donated” labor in the form of volunteers who purport to have the appropriate experience, expertise and equipment required to perform some necessary project work on or within parish buildings.

Share

Want to move “beyond insurance”?

dv560003

You probably noticed that this new series of articles has been retitled to Never Again: Beyond Insurance. But, how does a church organization get “beyond insurance” — and should it even try?

Share

Balancing religious freedom & employment rights

bldjp022005_81

The young woman had been a mathematics teacher at the church-related high school for more than seven years. She was beloved by her students; they praised her ability to convey difficult concepts in an accessible, clear and engaging style.

Share

Climate change: a better way to deal with bullying

bullying

Schools are understandably concerned about bullying. It can create a corrosive school environment, disrupt learning and have a long-term effect on everyone involved. Recent research shows that schools can help reduce the rate of bullying if they put students in a safe, connected environment that teaches them how to manage conflict and stand up for what’s right.

Share

Resolving conflict vs. solving problems

I’m often asked about how leaders resolve difficult issues. One of the things that leaders are required to do, if they lead well, is to be able to handle the more difficult issues in a way that brings reconciliation and resolution.

Share