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Pastor, Church & Law

written by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Legal Briefs

Volume 1 . Chapter 1

Clergy, pastor, minister—a number of laws use these terms. Before we dive into the legal issues facing pastors, it's important to have a basic understanding of the legal definition of these terms. To illustrate, would a volunteer youth pastor who has no ministerial credentials be considered a "minister" for purposes of the clergy-penitent privilege? Would such a person be eligible to perform marriage ceremonies? What about eligibility for a housing allowance under federal tax law? These questions demonstrate the importance of understanding legal definitions.

The concept of ministerial status is critical to understand also. Ministers may be either employees or self-employed, and this distinction is important in a number of contexts including ...

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