Nuns Lose ACA Fight • Tax-Exempt Shields • Disabled Women Abused: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
Nuns Lose ACA Fight • Tax-Exempt Shields • Disabled Women Abused: News Roundup

Nuns Lose ACA Fight

Nuns Lose Latest Court Battle to Avoid Contraception Mandate

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”), the Little Sisters of the Poor are required to comply with the law’s requirement that they allow their insurers to offer free contraception coverage to employees, a U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled. The ACA includes an “accommodation” that allows employers, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, to sign a paper stating their religious objections to the Health and Human Services mandate that requires insurance providers to step in and offer the coverage directly to employees for free. The Little Sisters of the Poor nuns said signing such a paper still violated their religious convictions that contraception is immoral, according to Religion News Service. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, however, ruled that the accommodation did “not substantially burden their religious exercise.”

Get help navigating the Affordable Care Act with our survival guide or survival guide supplement.

Tax-Exempt Shields

Kansas Governor’s Order Shields Faith Groups Objecting to Gay Marriage

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback issued an executive order that bars the state government and agencies from “penalizing religious nonprofits that refuse to recognize same-sex marriages or provide services to gay couples,” according to Brownback said the order was enacted to shield “Kansas clergy and religious organizations from being forced to participate in activities that violate their sincerely and deeply held beliefs.” The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the attorneys general of 14 states are calling for Congress to protect the tax-exempt status of religiously affiliated nonprofits, which has become a concern in the wake of the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

Read Richard Hammar's analysis on what the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling means for churches and clergy.

Racism and Vandalism

Vandals Hit Florida Black Church That Has Been Targeted Three Times in Six Months

A Melbourne, Florida, predominantly black church reported their third vandalism in the past six months. In the most recent reported break in, vandals broke into the church and ransacked areas of it. Earlier in 2015, vandals “set fire to a storage room” and “scrawled a swastika on a storage unit wall,” reports USA Today. The other reported incident was a spray painted noose being left in a church van. Police are investigating the vandalism.

Our Protecting Church Property Basic Training can help keep your ministry’s assets safe. Church Law & Tax previously reported on violence in the church in the wake of the Charleston shooting, and Christianity Today reported on the history of discrimination and violence in black churches, in particular, have faced.

Disabled Women Abused

Indiana Man Charged with Rape of Disabled Women after Bible Study

An Indiana man has been charged on two counts of rape and three counts of sexual battery for acts allegedly involving him and three developmentally disabled women at Bible study meetings, reports the Chicago Tribune. The abuse allegedly took place between November 2014 and April 2015 and occurred inside a church while those involved were attending a Bible study. One of the disabled women reported the inappropriate contact in April of this year. The alleged abuser, a 23 year old man, was a long-time attendee of the church, and reportedly led the three disabled women, individually and on separate occasions, into a secluded area of the church where he began to touch them inappropriately and without consent. The defendant said in a statement to the police that “everything that did happen was consensual between adults.” The alleged victims all claim contact was neither wanted nor consensual. Court documents state that two of the alleged victims function at below-normal levels and the third disabled woman has an IQ of 57. If convicted, the man faces almost 40 years total in punishment.

Protect your ministry and the most vulnerable in it with the abuse prevention guide, Reducing the Risk.

$400,000 Stolen

Phoenix Woman Who Embezzled $400,000 from Churches Gets Sentenced to 21 Months in Prison

A woman embezzled $423,084 from a Free Methodist regional church group over two years and is now going to serve almost two years in prison for it. The woman has also been ordered to pay back these funds she and her husband stole from Free Methodist churches. The husband was convicted on a lesser charge and must serve a five-year probation term but no prison time. The woman worked as a secretary and treasurer for Arizona Light & Life Conference, hosted by the Free Methodist Church. This conference has disbanded, according to

Church Finance Today’s report on fraud reinforces the vital need for proper internal controls.

Hidden Threat

Thieves Hid Inside California Church, Stole Sacred Objects

A Los Angeles church was burglarized of sacred items, including a processional cross and a tabernacle, a container used to house communion bread, which is considered sacred by the church. The investigating police said, “It appears the suspects hid inside the church…until the staff was gone and [the] church was closed and [he] removed these very sacred items.” NBC Los Angeles reports that a church warden arrived one morning to find a church window smashed and collection money missing, along with the sacred items.

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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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