Sex-Abuse Bill • Protecting Sermons • Property Tax Exemption Denied: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
Sex-Abuse Bill • Protecting Sermons • Property Tax Exemption Denied: News Roundup
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Illinois Bill to Eliminate Statutes of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse Crimes. “[A] measure to eliminate statutes of limitations for all child sex abuse crimes cleared the Illinois House on [May 18] and heads to Governor Bruce Rauner’s desk, where the governor vowed to sign it. The bill was pushed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who testified before a Senate committee alongside Scott Cross, who was one of the boys [former US House Speaker Dennis] Hastert sexually abused when Hastert coached wrestling at Yorkville High School in the 1960s and 1970s. . . . While accused of abusing five boys, Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison only for financial crimes tied to payouts he made to an abuse victim. At his sentencing hearing last year, Hastert admitted to sexually abusing the boys and was labelled a ‘serial child molester’ by the judge. But the man who was once second in line to the presidency couldn’t be prosecuted for sexual abuse because the statute of limitation for those crimes had passed a decade earlier. The bill eliminates Illinois’ statutes of limitations that can allow child predators to go unpunished. It includes all felony criminal sexual assault and sexual abuse crimes against children” (“With help of Hastert victim, sex-abuse bill on way to becoming law,” Chicago Sun-Times).

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.

Texas Governor Signs Bill Protecting Sermons. “Senate Bill 24, listed among Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick's top priorities, bars the government from forcing religious leaders to turn over copies of sermons during a civil lawsuit or administrative proceeding. It also bars the state from compelling a religious leader's testimony. To mark the occasion at Grace Community Church in the Woodlands, Patrick and Governor Greg Abbott joined pastor Steve Riggle and three of the four others whose sermons were subpoenaed in 2014 by the city of Houston, igniting a political fire storm for then-mayor Annise Parker. . . . The bill passed easily, but wasn't without opposition. Some legal experts contended that its protections are too broad, and could hamper discovery in cases of church sexual abuse, forced marriage and corporal punishment” (“Abbott signs bill to protect sermons, delivers one himself,” The Houston Chronicle).

The “political fire storm” around the 2014 sermon subpoenas was the focus of a ChurchLawAndTax.com interview with attorney Frank Sommerville in October 2014.

Court Denies Property Tax Exemption to Church Day Care Center. “A state appeals court in Springfield has said the state of Illinois was correct to deny a property tax exemption to a church for a day care center owned, staffed, and operated by the church and its member, finding the day care center was more ‘businesslike than religious’ in nature. . . . In its appeal to the Fourth District Court, the church asserted the day care center is used for ministry purposes, so it should be entitled to a property tax exemption. . . . The appellate court concluded that although the center does offer religious instruction and its activities tend to possess ‘religious overtones,’ the building’s primary purpose was to form businesslike relationships with families in order to provide day care services to children and therefore is ineligible for tax exemptions under the Property Tax Code” (“State OK to deny church-affiliated daycare center property tax exemption because too 'businesslike,’” Cook County Record).

Dive deep into issues of church property, tax legislation, and more with Volume 2 of attorney Richard Hammar’s Pastor, Church & Law, located in our Library.

Report Evaluates Tax Reform Act’s Influence on Charitable Giving. “The Indiana University Lily Family School of Philanthropy yesterday released a report titled Tax Policy and Charitable Giving Results (full text). The report attempts to estimate the impact on charitable giving of the proposed 2014 Tax Reform Act. That bill is similar to the current tax reform proposals by the White House and House of Representatives. The report examines various combinations of 3 proposals—increase in the standard deduction, decrease in the top marginal tax rate, and universal charitable deduction. It analyzes the impact of combinations of these on giving to religious congregations and giving to other charities” (“New Study Analyzes Impact of Tax Reform Proposals on Giving to Religious Organizations,” Religion Clause).

Do Americans still give significantly to churches? Find out more in this infographic.

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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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