Hurricane Response • $800,000 Theft • Church Festival Fine: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
Hurricane Response • $800,000 Theft • Church Festival Fine: News Roundup

Christians’ Response to Hurricane Harvey. “If current projections hold true, Hurricane Harvey will be the strongest hurricane to strike the United States since Katrina, Rita, and Wilma hit in 2005. A decade ago, maybe your church volunteered, planned a short-term mission trip, gave money, or helped rebuild Gulf Coast communities beaten down by one of America’s most deadly and destructive disaster seasons. Harvey, which hit the Texas coast as a Category 4 hurricane, offers Christians a chance to be even more helpful—to show God’s grace and mercy to a disaster-filled world. But it means we have to be willing to learn from experiences like Katrina” (“Hurricane Harvey Is Here. Time for Christians to Show What We’ve Learned Since Katrina.Christianity Today).

See Church Law & Tax columnist Jamie Aten’s article on “How to Provide Spiritual and Emotional Care in the Wake of Natural Disasters.”

Church Bookkeeper Pleads Guilty to $800,000 Theft. “A former accounting clerk at a Catholic church in Onalaska, Wisconsin, is facing 23 years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing more than $800,000 from the congregation. A complaint filed in US District Court in Madison says 59-year-old Barbara Snyder used the money to gamble at area casinos. Snyder was responsible for depositing church collections and maintaining accounting records at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church. She’s accused of falsifying bank deposit slips and accounting records” (“Guilty pleas in church theft of $800,000,” Wisconsin Law Journal).

Fraud is a serious—and common—risk to churches of all stripes. Download Internal Controls for Churches to help ensure your church properly manages this risk.

Church Fined Due to Volunteers’ Festival Drinking. “Utah's alcohol control authority has leveled a fine against a Catholic church for violating a state liquor law. At its meeting on Tuesday, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) Commission voted to punish St. John the Baptist Parish in Draper for an incident during the church's annual Festival of Roses in May. The church was ordered to pay about $600 in fines and fees. ‘It appears some of the volunteers had a little alcohol while serving—while they were volunteering—which is against state law,’ DABC spokesman Terry Wood told FOX 13. The liquor law violation is more common among restaurants or bars where employees may be drinking on the clock. The DABC acknowledged it is unusual to see such a violation at a church. St. John the Baptist Parish was among more than 40 businesses [that] faced punishment for alcohol violations on Tuesday. Speaking to FOX 13, Rev. Richard Sherman suggested the fine was ‘a blessing’ when it comes to the harms that can be caused by alcohol” (“Catholic church fined for violating Utah liquor law,” FOX 13).

Avoiding Church Lawsuits can help you mitigate a number of legal risks churches face.

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 Facebook.

Samuel Ogles is Associate Editor and Special Project Manager 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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