Church Security Law • Sanctuary Churches Double • Ministerial Exception: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
Church Security Law • Sanctuary Churches Double • Ministerial Exception: News Roundup

Texas Church Prepares for New Law Allowing Armed Congregants. “A church security seminar . . . at North Pointe Baptist Church in Hurst . . . went over the new law, SB 2065, that will go into effect on September 1. Under that law, churches will be able to arm members of their own congregation, rather than hire private security firms. It also provided hands-on training to attendees, educating them on everything from how to spot suspicious activity to how to apply a tourniquet to one who has been victimized. . . . [Retired police officer and church security expert Jimmy Meeks] said this is just the beginning of ongoing training that will be provided. ‘We're just in a violent season right now, and the churches just need to be prepared. Protect your people, love them enough to protect them. That's our motive,’ Meeks said” (“Churches Prepare for Security Changes Under New Law,” NBCDFW.com).

Texas’s Church Security Protection Act was previously covered in the May 31 News Roundup. For more on gun laws and security at your church, see this interview with Church Law & Tax Editorial Advisor Frank Sommerville.

Sanctuary Churches Double, But Few Immigrants Choose Them. “The number of American churches declaring themselves sanctuaries for illegal immigrants has more than doubled since President Donald Trump was elected, but only a dozen people are known to be taking refuge there to avoid deportation. Since Trump's victory in November, about 400 churches have declared themselves sanctuaries, bringing the total to more than 800, according to Church World Service, an international humanitarian nonprofit. The surge came after Trump pledged to deport millions of undocumented people from the United States. But for immigrants seeking to avoid federal authorities, sanctuary remains a last resort — and a potentially risky one. . . . Nury Chavarria was the most recent immigrant to publicly take sanctuary in a church. Her decision seems to have helped her win some relief in the short term. The Guatemalan-born mother of four was granted a stay of deportation on Wednesday after spending six nights in Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal in New Haven, Connecticut. . . . When illegal immigrants like Chavarria take sanctuary, they have no guarantees. However, ICE policy discourages arrests at 'sensitive locations,' which include places of worship” (“Under Trump, more churches offer sanctuary but few seek refuge,” Reuters).

Read more about churches and immigration law in this interview with an immigration attorney.

Kentucky Church’s Phone Number Used in Scam. “Someone is reportedly using the phone number of the First Baptist Church in Benton, Kentucky, to scam people in the area. On Tuesday, July 25, the Marshall County Sheriff's Office received a call from the actual First Baptist Church about the scam. Officials said someone has been using the church's telephone number and using ‘spoof’ technology in order to make it appear that calls are coming from the church. Scammers make it seem like they are associated with the church, then try to get people to buy medical equipment” (“Phone scam in Benton, KY uses church’s phone number to get money,” KFVS News).

Don’t become a victim of fraud—check out our downloadable resource on protecting your church from scams, cyber threats, and more.

Court Examining Defense’s Claim of ‘Ministerial Exception’ in Synagogue Librarian’s Lawsuit. “[A] New York federal district court refused to dismiss a suit alleging gender, age, and disability discrimination brought by the librarian of a New York synagogue who says that she was subjected to a hostile work environment, unlawful discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Defendants asserted the ‘ministerial exception’ doctrine as a defense. The court held, however, that development of a further factual record is necessary to determine whether plaintiff performed sufficient religious functions to be considered a ministerial employee” (“Further Evidence Needed to Rule on Ministerial Exception Defense,” Religion Clause).

Learn more about the ministerial exception doctrine in our Legal Library.

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Emily Lund is Assistant Editor for Church Law & Tax.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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