SCOTUS Religious Liberty Ruling • Abuse Cover-Up • Church Vandalism: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
SCOTUS Religious Liberty Ruling • Abuse Cover-Up • Church Vandalism: News Roundup
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Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Missouri Church in Religious Liberty Case. “In a 7-2 decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer . . . the US Supreme Court today [June 26] held that the First Amendment free exercise rights of Trinity Lutheran Church were violated when the state of Missouri denied the church's Child Learning Center a grant for resurfacing of its playground with scrap tire material. The state had relied on Missouri Constitution's Blaine Amendment which prohibits financial assistance directly to any church. . . . In his opinion for the Court, [Chief Justice] Roberts said in part: ‘In recent years, when this Court has rejected free exercise challenges, the laws in question have been neutral and generally applicable without regard to religion. We have been careful to distinguish such laws from those that single out the religious for disfavored treatment. . . . The Department’s policy expressly discriminates against otherwise eligible recipients by disqualifying them from a public benefit solely because of their religious character. . . . Trinity Lutheran is not claiming any entitlement to a subsidy. It instead asserts a right to participate in a government benefit program without having to disavow its religious character. . . . Trinity Lutheran is a member of the community too, and the state’s decision to exclude it for purposes of this public program must withstand the strictest scrutiny’” (“Supreme Court Holds Denial of Playground Resurfacing Grant to Church Violates Free Exercise Clause [UPDATED],” Religion Clause).

For more information on this, read Christianity Today's article.

Report Discovers Sexual Abuse Cover-Ups Within Church of England. “Senior people in the Church of England ‘colluded’ over two decades with a bishop to help cover up his serial abuse of young men and boys, an independent review found on Thursday. The unsparing report, titled ‘An Abuse of Faith,’ centers on Peter Ball, the former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, who was convicted in 2015 of misconduct in public office and of indecent assaults against 18 victims over a 15-year period from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. Now 85, Mr. Ball was released from prison in February after serving half his 32-month sentence. . . . Among the report’s most damning criticisms is its rebuke of the former archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, now the honorary assistant bishop in the Diocese of Oxford. It accuses him of setting ‘the tone for the church’s response to Mr. Ball’s crimes’ and enabling Mr. Ball’s declarations of innocence to be accepted, even as victims and members of the public came forward to expose abuse by the former bishop. . . . The report said that despite the efforts of victims and witnesses to report the abuse, the church allowed its desire to preserve its reputation to supersede the imperative to help victims” (“Church of England ‘Colluded’ with Bishop to Hide Sex Abuse, Report Says,” The New York Times).

The number-one reason churches end up in court is child sexual abuse allegations. Help your church decrease the likelihood of a child being harmed or your church facing costly allegations with our newly revised training program.

South Carolina Teens Charged with Church Vandalism. “Bond has been set for two Lexington County teens who deputies say broke into a church on Monday. They're identified as 17-year-old Tristian Harmon and 17-year-old Skylar Shuey. The two have each been charged with second degree burglary, malicious injury to a place of worship, safecracking, two car break-ins, grand larceny, and conspiracy, according to arrest warrants. . . . Pastor [Justin] Eshleman was at the hearing and says he wants to warn churches to step up their security if they haven't already. . . . The church does have surveillance cameras, but they were not recording at the time of the incident. They plan to add an alarm system” (“Bond Set for Two Lexington Teens Following Church Vandalism,” WLTX).

If your church needs help stepping up its security, use the assessment and how-to articles in this downloadable resource.

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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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