Church Shooting • FEMA Funding • Theft Charges: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
Church Shooting • FEMA Funding • Theft Charges: News Roundup
Image: Jp Valery / Unsplash

Tennessee Church Shooting Leaves One Dead, Six Wounded. “The man accused of opening fire at a church near Nashville, Tennessee, on Sunday, leaving one parishioner dead and six wounded, had previous encounters with local police, including one after a relative worried he was suicidal, according to police records released Monday. . . . Nashville police have charged [Emanuel Kidega] Samson, 25, with one count of murder and said additional charges will follow. The FBI and the Justice Department have launched a hate-crime investigation into the shooting. . . . Nashville's mayor, Megan Barry, also pleaded for the community to not pre-judge the motivations behind the shooting. ‘I want the people of Nashville to know we are a community that lifts up others and that is what we are here to do tonight,’ Barry said. ‘And over the next few days and months we will know what happened to this particular person.’ . . . The gunfire erupted while worshipers were gathered in the sanctuary for Sunday morning services, praying at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee, which Samson used to attend. Police said Samson told them he was armed with a handgun when he opened fire outside the church. The worshipers who were shot and survived were between the ages of 64 and 83, according to police. All but one remained hospitalized in stable condition Monday, officials said” (“Tennessee church shooting suspect had previous run-ins with police,” The Chicago Tribune).

Assess your church’s current security vulnerabilities and make a plan to help prevent violent incidents with this downloadable resource.

Senators Introduce Bill to Allow Churches to Access FEMA Funds. “Four Republican senators introduced legislation to allow churches to receive disaster relief money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The legislation was written in response to the devastating hurricanes in Florida and Texas, where houses of worship are playing significant roles providing help to hard-hit communities. Under current law, FEMA cannot provide money to churches for the repair, reconstruction, or replacement of facilities. The senators said the bill they have authored would allow churches to have access to the same money as other non-profit facilities. The senators noted last summer's Supreme Court 7-2 ruling that a Missouri church could access state grant money to resurface the church playground. ‘We must ensure that religious organizations are eligible for federal assistance on the same terms as other non-profits after being damaged or destroyed during natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma,’ said sponsor Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas” (“New bill would let churches access FEMA money,” The Washington Examiner).

Earlier this month, three Texas churches sued FEMA for discrimination over their refusal to grant disaster relief assistance. Read more about that lawsuit here.

Church Volunteer Charged with Larceny After Stealing Collection Money. “A volunteer at an Alexandria church is facing larceny charges after police say she stole several thousand dollars from the weekly collection. On Sunday, police arrested Sandra Irene Cortes, 53, of Annandale, after an investigation found she was pocketing money from the church collection at the Queen of Apostles Church. . . . Cortes, who volunteered at the church, was taking the money from the collection while she was counting it, police said. After a church employee told police the church suspected Cortes was stealing, detectives set up a surveillance operation and saw her take money from the collection plate during her volunteer duties. Cortes is charged with three counts of grand larceny—a theft of anything more than $200” (“Alexandria church volunteer accused of stealing money from collection,” WTOP).

Use this downloadable resource to set up safeguards against money mismanagement and theft at your church.

Employers Hope to Incentivize Workers to Get Flu Vaccines. “More employers will give free on-site flu vaccines to ensure workers sign up this fall. They want to minimize the lost productivity and other costs the virus causes. Some offer on-site shots to workers’ families. Others use food and prizes as incentives. Immunized workers miss 45% fewer days and make 44% fewer doctor’s visits. Employers indirectly lose $77 million annually as 45% of missed workdays are blamed on the flu virus. Experts say everyone older than six months should get vaccinated. Work-from-home options for sick workers can also help stop the flu’s spread. Beware: Medical experts worry that a rough flu season may lie ahead. The virus was widespread during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter . . . a warning sign” (Kiplinger Letter, September 22, 2017).

Learn more about the legal issues surrounding vaccination in this article.

We're always preparing the best and fastest ways to bring you the news in the context of expert advice. For more regular updates, follow us on Twitter or on Facebook.


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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