Transgender Bathroom Case • Sexual Abuse Lawsuit • Church Versus Railway: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
Transgender Bathroom Case • Sexual Abuse Lawsuit • Church Versus Railway: News Roundup

Supreme Court Returns Transgender Bathroom Access Case to Lower Court. “Prompted by the Trump administration’s reversal of the federal government’s position on transgender rights, the Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would not decide whether a transgender boy in Virginia could use the boys’ bathroom at his high school. The decision not to take his case, which came as the court is awaiting the appointment of a ninth member, means there will be no ruling on the highly charged issue of transgender rights this term. The issue will almost certainly return to the Supreme Court, probably in a year or two. Until then, lawsuits in the lower courts will proceed, the political climate and public opinion may shift, and the court’s composition will almost certainly change. . . . The case would have been the court’s first encounter with transgender rights, and it would probably have been one of the biggest decisions of a fairly sleepy term” (“Supreme Court Won’t Hear Major Case on Transgender Rights,” The New York Times).

Read attorney Richard Hammar’s analysis on a federal district court’s recent ruling addressing churches and transgender bathroom access.

Kansas Church Faces Sexual Abuse Lawsuit. “An Overbrook church is being sued for allegedly aiding and abetting the sexual abuse of two children. . . . According to the original criminal complaint which was filed in October 2014, the crimes took place between May 1, 2013, and January 1, 2014, and involved children who were 4 and 6 years old at the time the complaint was filed. The civil lawsuit, filed in September 2016, alleges two children attended Grace Community Church and Cultivate Community Church, which was a ‘plant’ church supervised by GCC. . . . The plaintiffs contend Calderwood was a volunteer with both churches and allowed to supervise and access children at both churches, as well as a home where services were held on some occasions. The sexual abuse occurred between 2013 and 2014 during services and events sponsored by the church, the plaintiff’s petition reads” (“Overbrook church, sex offender named in sexual abuse lawsuit,” The Topeka Capital-Journal).

Sexual abuse of minors has consistently remained the top reason religious organizations go to court. See our resources on child abuse reporting laws for churches and how to create a response plan.

Iowa Church Sues Railway Company. “An Iowa church has sued a railway company, alleging it built a rail line on its property without permission. The lawsuit by Christian Fellowship Church in Mason City accuses Iowa Traction Railway of installing the line after negotiations for the railroad to acquire a portion of the church’s land were unsuccessful. . . . The church has asked the railroad to remove the line, but the company refused, the lawsuit says. Iowa Traction Railway denies the church’s claims and said in a reply to the lawsuit that it gained ownership of the land through adverse possession. Adverse possession is a legal term akin to squatter’s rights that allows someone who openly occupies land for a long period to gain title of it. The railroad also claims the church missed the deadline [to] file a lawsuit in the case” (“Iowa church sues company over railroad track on its property,” The Washington Post).

Missouri Church Suffers Arson Attack. “Our Redeemer Lutheran Church had to turn people away Sunday to keep them from breathing in smoke. A pastor said he tried to help someone Saturday night, but that person ended up setting fire to the church. . . . Charred debris, including one of the church doors, was left sitting on the lawn outside the church. Workers had to fasten sheets of plywood over the entrance. The head pastor posted online that someone he tried to help ended up causing a tussle, then came back and tried to burn down the church. Fire crews said most of the damage was relegated to the entrance, but it's the smoke and smell and ashes in the bathroom that made them cancel service Sunday. Church leaders said it could cost about $3,000 to repair the damages. The church will incur additional costs to hire someone to get rid of the smell” (“Pastor says church was set on fire by someone he tried to help,” Fox4KC).

There are many possible motivations behind arson, as James Cobble, Jr. points out in an article that provides practical tips for churches to reduce their vulnerabilities to such crimes.

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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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