How Does State Affect Church—Really?
Stuart Lark has been a nonprofit lawyer for more than 15 years. He's represented the YMCA, the ECFA, Compassion International, Azusa Pacific University, many churches, and countless other organizations. He is also one of our newest editorial advisors. We sat down with Stuart to talk about which legal trends are affecting churches today, and what you can do about it.
1. Are there specific areas where the church is facing challenges in light of the current legal climate?
Well, obviously the kinds of things that are in the news about the questions of human sexuality and what that means for nondiscrimination rules and access to public facilities or public benefits is a growing area of concern.
I also think the ability to associate with fellow believers in carrying out an organization's mission is a challenge when the organizations are engaged in activities that are more commercial in nature, or look like the kinds of activities that a nonreligious organization would do.
So compassion, service to the poor and needy, social services of various kinds, or commercial activities, like a coffee shop in a church or even camping services where there's a fee. Those types of activities are continually analyzed from the outside from the legal perspective. People who don't intuitively understand why religious organizations would do those activities would see them as not really different from what commercial and secular organizations do, and they would wonder why religious organizations are exempt from certain rules.