Birth Control Coverage • Sanctuary Church • Water Pressure Lawsuit: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
Birth Control Coverage • Sanctuary Church • Water Pressure Lawsuit: News Roundup

Trump Administration Announces New Birth Control Rules. “More employers—including Christian-run businesses and nonprofits—can opt out of contraception coverage required under the Affordable Care Act thanks to new rules issued by the Trump administration. The regulations exempt employers who object to treatments like birth control pills, emergency contraception, and sterilization due to ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ or ‘moral convictions.’ With these interim final rules, Trump follows through on his promise to secure religious liberty protections for employers forced to cover medicine they oppose on religious grounds. ‘It is necessary and appropriate to provide the expanded exemptions,’ the rules state, countering the Obama administration’s stance. The policy came out of the Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services departments. The New York Times reported that the rules go into effect immediately once they’re on display at the Federal Registrar’s office. . . . It’s been a lengthy legal fight to get to this point. While the Affordable Care Act always offered religious exemptions to churches and houses of worship, other religious employers had to make a case for themselves” (“Trump Exempts Religious Employers from Birth Control Coverage,” Christianity Today).

For information on how the Affordable Care Act affects churches, check out this downloadable resource.

Facing Deportation, Undocumented Immigrant Seeks Sanctuary in Connecticut Church. “West Hartford resident Sujitno Sajuti has been ordered by ICE to leave the country on October 10, but he instead took sanctuary in a Meriden church. A release from CIRA (Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance) says that Sajuti took sanctuary at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden. . . . ‘A humble, peaceful gentleman who’s been here for over 30 years, an active community member, is being told to leave the country for no reason,’ Alok Bhatt with the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance said. ‘He just wants to be here, live peacefully, continue his education, continue to teach his students, he means so much to them.’ The 68-year-old West Hartford resident came to the United States in the early 1980s as a Fulbright scholar, but after his student visa expired and without options to gain status in the United States, continued to live here in Connecticut. Sajuti tells FOX61 the process to get a visa is ‘a very confusing process.’ Around 2002-2003, after submitting to a special registration program profiling men from Muslim-majority nations, ICE targeted him for removal and then arrested him at his home in 2011. Sajuti spent over two months incarcerated before the community rallied for his freedom. He has since been allowed to live with his wife Dahlia and work in the United States, but in August of this year ICE denied his stay of removal and he was ordered to leave the country” (“West Hartford man set to be deported takes sanctuary in Meriden church,” Fox 61).

Learn more about churches offering sanctuary, employing foreign citizens, and more with this downloadable resource.

Church Sues City, Public Utilities Company over Weak Water Pressure. “St. Anthony Catholic Church in Fayetteville filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court last month against the City of Fayetteville and Fayetteville Public Utilities, citing breach of contract and discrimination. Church leaders say that weak water pressure from a nearby hydrant is causing a hazard not only for the church but also for its neighbors. ‘It’s scary, and it’s frustrating,’ explained Rick Musacchio, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville’s Director of Communication. The church falls into that diocese, and serves 230 households. Musacchio said that would equate to nearly 700 people attending the church. ‘A lack of fire protection based on the lack of available water to fight fires really is seriously diminishing the value of the property,’ he further explained. . . . Just last June, a fire down the street injured three people. At the time, Fayetteville’s City Administrator confirmed to WHNT News 19 that low water pressure made it hard to fight the flames. . . . The church said that it is paying for water service, but its inability to have enough water flow or pressure to be able to receive firefighting service is a breach of contract” (“Fayetteville church files federal lawsuit against city, utility company,” WHNT News 19).

Common reasons churches go to court—and potential resolutions and strategies to avoid lawsuits—are outlined in this downloadable resource.

Church’s Security Gate Falls, Kills Child. “A little boy in Washington was killed after a church's security gate fell on top of him, police said. According to KIRO 7, a 10-year-old boy was in the parking lot of Sulamita Slavic Pentecostal Church in Mukilteo when a 20-foot wrought iron fence toppled over, pinning the child underneath. An off-duty paramedic was in the area and rushed over to help the child. When officers arrived to the scene, the man was attempting CPR. ‘Paramedics arrived to find a 10-year-old Everett boy on the ground with a bystander doing CPR. Bystander said he had moved a gate off of the patient,’ Mukilteo assistant fire chief Brian McMahan told the outlet. Despite efforts to save the little boy, his head injuries were too severe and he was pronounced dead at the scene. KIRO 7 reports that it took four men to lift the gate onto a truck. Investigators are still trying to determine why the boy was at the church and how the gate fell” (“Child dies after church’s iron security gate falls on him,” New York Daily News).

How is your church evaluating risk management concerns when it comes to your property? Download the Risk Management Assessment Pack to evaluate your current efforts and find ways to improve.

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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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