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Passing on the Pastor: Sexual Abuse and Public Statements About Ministerial Qualifications

passing the pastorIf a religious organization believes that a minister or other employee has engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior, what responsibility does it have to notify others? How does child sexual abuse change the rules for normal termination procedure? Those who become victims of that person insist it is the organization’s duty to share that information. Employees who have been terminated for such behavior say sharing such information is a breach of confidence amounting to defamation. 

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You Gave the Church Away?

You hate to see a case with a caption like God’s Hope Builders, Inc. v. Mount Zion Baptist Church, since it seems unlikely the lawsuit is what God would have hoped for. The Georgia Court of Appeals, on March 28, 2013, remanded this case with orders to the trial court to figure out, if it legitimately could, who the church members actually were.

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Do I Have to Work on Sundays?

Some jobs require a person to work on the Sabbath. Does the law require you to work on your Sabbath, or does your employer have to accommodate your religious beliefs and let you go to church (or mosque or synagogue or temple)? As attorneys love to say, that depends. Two recent cases in late 2012 give some idea of how employers’ and employees’ rights are balanced in the context of time off for worship. Both cases are based on Title VII, which prohibits employers from discriminating based on religion (and includes all aspects of religious observance and practice)—unless the employer can demonstrate that it cannot reasonably accommodate the religious observance without undue hardship.

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Good News in the Schoolhouse

 On August 29, 2012, the Eighth Circuit decided in favor of Child Evangelism Fellowship in Child Evangelism Fellowship v. Minneapolis Special Sch. Dist. No. 1.  It reversed the denial of CEF’s preliminary injunction where it had tried to stop a school district in Minnesota from limiting school facility access for a Good News Club.

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Here is the Steeple--But Whose Steeple?

Here is the church
And here is the steeple.
But does it belong
To the group or the people?

Church property disputes are painful and usually contentious. Usually, though not always, they begin when a congregation wants to leave the denomination, often over doctrinal fidelity. Because it is a dispute over church property, deep constitutional issues apply that may trump regular property law.

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The Last Straw Better Not Be Religious

Nyaboga v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, a recent unpublished cased from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, discusses whether an employee was fired for legitimate reasons or for religious reasons. Nyaboga was fired, then she sued over whether she was entitled to unemployment benefits. She had worked as a nurse, and asked not to be scheduled for Saturday shifts when she got more serious about her religious beliefs as a Seventh-Day Adventist. Her employer required her to find people to replace her on that shift (which the Court hinted might have been a separate problem, but was not discussed in the opinion). By the time Nyaboga lost her job, she had been tardy 58 times and warned repeatedly. She was warned that she would lose her job if she were absent one more time or tardy two more times.

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