SCOTUS Christian Hospital Ruling • Televangelism Network Lawsuit • Treasurer Embezzlement: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
SCOTUS Christian Hospital Ruling • Televangelism Network Lawsuit • Treasurer Embezzlement: News Roundup
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Supreme Court Rules on Religiously Affiliated Hospitals’ Exemptions. “Giving a major win to religiously affiliated health care systems, the US Supreme Court today [June 5] in Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton . . . held that their retirement plans qualify as exempt ‘church plans’ under ERISA. Interpreting ambiguous language in the statute, Justice Kagan, writing for a unanimous court (Gorsuch, J. not participating) said: ‘ERISA provides (1) that a “church plan” means a “plan established and maintained . . . by a church” and (2) that a “plan established and maintained . . . by a church” is to “include[] a plan maintained by” a principal-purpose organization. Under the best reading of the statute, a plan maintained by a principal-purpose organization therefore qualifies as a “church plan,” regardless of who established it. We accordingly reverse the judgments of the Courts of Appeals’” (“Supreme Court: Pension Plans of Religiously Affiliated Hospitals Are ERISA ‘Church Plans,’Religion Clause).

Read Christianity Today’s coverage of the ruling here.

Trinity Broadcasting Network Lawsuit Results in $2 Million for Televangelist’s Granddaughter. “An Orange County jury Monday, June 5, awarded $2 million in damages to the granddaughter of late televangelist Jan Crouch, finding that the minister acted outrageously when she blamed and berated her 13-year-old granddaughter after the girl told her she had been sexually assaulted by a church employee. The jury deliberated nearly eight hours before determining that Jan Crouch, who co-founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network empire with her late husband Paul, caused her granddaughter Carra Crouch, now 24, years of emotional pain and suffering. . . . While the judgment falls short of the $6 million Carra Crouch was seeking, her attorney, David Keesling, said it sends a strong message on how churches should handle reports of sexual assault. ‘From now on, they’re going to have to go out there and explain to people why a Christian ministry would conduct themselves this way,’ he said” (“Granddaughter who alleged rape cover-up is awarded $2 million in Trinity Broadcasting Network lawsuit,” The Orange County Register).

Child sexual abuse allegations are the number-one reason churches go to court. Take steps toward protection and prevention with our newly-revised training program Reducing the Risk.

Former Church Treasurer Convicted of Embezzlement. “Carol Jean Padgett, 70, of Altoona [Iowa] was sentenced on Wednesday to 80 hours of community service. She earlier pleaded guilty to two felony charges for embezzlement while she was treasurer of Unity Lutheran Church in Des Moines. Padgett was also ordered to pay back the money she stole and additional fees. Padgett, who had been treasurer for the church more than 11 years, was arrested in December 2016. She originally faced seven felony charges. In April, she pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors to two of those charges: second-degree theft and credit card fraud. . . . Padgett had led church leaders to believe they may have to close the church because of financial problems. The church made several budget cuts over the years in response to Padgett's advice as treasurer, including pulling donations to other organizations and cutting [the Reverend Donna] Joseph's salary and insurance benefits. . . . As treasurer, Padgett was the only person to handle the church's finances, Joseph said. But after months of financial woe, church leaders grew suspicious and eventually examined the bank statements themselves” (“Des Moines pastor describes ‘evil deeds’ of church embezzler at sentencing,” The Des Moines Register).

How would your church respond to embezzlement? This downloadable resource provides assessments, a sample policy, quick tips, and more.

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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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