Church legal Archives - Church Executive


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

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.

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

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.

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4 steps to creating a safe ministry

It’s no secret the world we live in today is much different than it was just a few years ago. In today’s society, it has become clear that churches are no longer the safe haven they once were thought to be. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of church violence or allegations of abuse on the nightly news. Unfortunately, churches have become more vulnerable to these types of incidents that threaten the strength and reputation of the organization. To help protect your religious organization from these threats, the leaders of your church are encouraged to set aside time each year to ensure the safety and security of the facility. During this time, it’s important to analyze, review and modify current church policies and procedures to ensure adequate plans are in place to help prevent potential risks.

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

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.

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5 compliance challenges EVERY church leader needs to know about

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.

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What to do if your church is subject to a liability claim

Accidents happen; it’s inevitable. And when those accidents occur, it can be a scary time for both the injured party and the church. When such events take place and the injured party files a claim against the church, it’s called a liability claim.

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Dollar’s dollars: restricted gifts and abandoned projects

Televangelist Creflo Dollar recently came under fire for asking that 200,000 of his followers donate $300 each to buy a $60-million luxury jet for his use. In the wake of bad publicity associated with the request, it appears that he may have cancelled the campaign before reaching his goal. The problem is: What happens to money already collected?

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Supreme Court weighs a church’s right to advertise services

The Supreme Court on Monday (Jan. 12) considered a tiny church’s curbside sign in a case that could raise the bar on government regulation of speech, and make it easier for houses of worship to advertise their services. The Alliance Defending Freedom, the advocacy group that represents Pastor Clyde Reed and his Good News Community Church, bills the case, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, as a religious rights case. But their attorney mostly argued it on free speech grounds.

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Screening staff and volunteers

Religious organizations are a community within themselves, built on faith and trust.

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How to protect the church board from litigation

When something goes wrong with the management of an organization

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