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Commercial Lease Issues for Churches or Spiritual Organizations

This is a guest post by Eric L. Nesbitt, who practices real estate law. Your Church should carefully review a commercial lease for permissive or restrictive use clauses, parking lot use, hours of access to the property, and responsibility for property damage.

Should religious employers jump on the “ban the box” bandwagon?

If your ministry asks potential volunteers or employees about any criminal record, do you need to throw out your application and start anew in light your state’s “ban the box” law? This post addresses how religious employers should be aware of “ban the box” laws and the changing legal landscape of considering criminal history in hiring.

Recovered Memory Therapy is Dangerous for Therapists as Well as Patients

Recovered memory therapy continues to be a controversial topic, with experts debating about whether it is valid. As a legal matter, this controversy has slowly spilled over into an increased risk of liability for the therapist who chooses to use the technique. More and more states are holding that parents of children who recover memories of sexual abuse can sue…

Courts and Churches—Interfering in Some Ways But Not Others

Not everything a church does to a pastor is outside the reach of the court. That is a recent lesson church officials learned in a case out of Ohio federal court dealing with the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine. Also known as the church autonomy doctrine, this is the principle that civil courts will stay out of the doctrinal and important decisions…

Four Things Your Ministry Needs to Do to Get Ready for the New Overtime Rules

Pastors work tirelessly preparing for sermons, counseling parishioners, and managing other administrative aspects of running a church. A teacher at a religious school spends countless hours developing lesson plans, and even more instructing students on matters of doctrine. A missionary’s work in the field does not fit the traditional 9 to 5 work day, and the person may be “on…

Seven Lessons from Archdiocese Criminal Prosecution

The State of Minnesota filed criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The charge was six counts of a gross misdemeanor criminal complaint, for putting children at risk in various ways. What lessons should organizations gather from this criminal complaint?

Reporting Child Abuse in Obscure Contexts

If your organization is in the United States or other countries with well-established child abuse reporting laws, then reporting is simple. If the alleged abuse happened in a country where reporting protocol is not established—or you have a multijurisdictional nightmare—or abuse that is historic—it may not be clear whether and how to report.

Practical Ways for Your Church to Respond to an Allegation of Child Abuse

One of the hardest things your church may ever deal with is an allegation of child sexual abuse. These allegations create responsibilities for reporting to law enforcement, for ministering to people who are hurt, evaluating child safety procedures that are in place, interacting with media, dealing with offenders, considering legal issues, and other tough challenges.

Reporting Child Abuse is Critical and Complex

Reporting child abuse is complex and important. Failure to report abuse can leave children at risk. Still, be wise before picking up the phone. An error in one direction may leave a child abused or make you criminally liable. An error in the other direction may damage a family, ruin a career, or expose you to a defamation lawsuit. 

An Unusual Perspective in the Clash of Rights—Thomas Berg’s “Progressive Arguments for Religious Organizational Freedom: Reflections on the HHS Mandate”

Thomas Berg has written an interesting article suggesting that progressives should improve their commitment to religious liberty for traditionalists. Progressives understand, forinstance, that the recent HHS contraceptive mandate impinges on religious liberty. But, as they will tell you, they just don’t care when the issue is one that is important to them, such as access to reproductive choice or gay…

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

If 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…

"Survey of Nonprofit Risk Management"--What Does it Say?

In June 2013, Crystal & Company, which is a large risk and insurance advisor, put out a “Survey of Nonprofit Risk Management.” The survey studied large nonprofits, with the smallest ones surveyed having revenues of $25 million to $50 million. For many nonprofits, that seems like a different world. Still, it highlighted some principles useful to all nonprofits.

Local Government and Legislative Prayer--Can They Pray or Not?

Two recent decisions on invocational prayer before local government Board meetings, filed in March of 2013, came out in opposite directions, but give some insight into the legal principles involved in determining whether Boards can properly sponsor a formal prayer before meetings. In Hudson v. Pittsylvania County, the federal district court for the Western District of Virginia issued an injunction…

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…

What is RLUIPA Substantial Burden on a Church, Anyway?

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) makes the government meet a very tough standard for a land use regulation that imposes a substantial burden on religious exercise, including for churches. Obviously an important initial question is whether the regulation does impose a substantial burden. A Fourth Circuit case issued January 31, 2013, Bethel World Outreach Ministries v.…

Privacy Law- How it Affects Your Organisation

Privacy law in Europe (also known as data protection law) became an important issue for organisations both in and outside Europe in about 2000 when tough rules around use of ‘data’ were introduced. The need for the law was attributed to the explosion in generation and use of data as a result of the advancement of the electronic age.
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