Organist Gets Ministerial Exception • HSA Changes? • iTunes Scam: News Roundup
    This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
    Organist Gets Ministerial Exception • HSA Changes? • iTunes Scam: News Roundup

    Church Organist Gets Ministerial Exception. “In Sterlinski v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, (ND IL, July 23, 2018), an Illinois federal district court held that the ministerial exception doctrine applies to an organist at a Catholic parish. Plaintiff claims he was demoted from Director of Music to Organist because he is Polish and because of his age. The court previously held that the Director of Music position was within the ministerial exception doctrine. It now rejected plaintiff's claim that his position no longer qualified as "ministerial" after his demotion. In the court's view:

    the key dispute is the importance of music—and, more specifically, the importance of instrumentalists—to Catholic Worship at Mass.”

    (From “‘Ministerial Exception’ Applies to Church Organist,” Religion Clause.)

    See the section on the ministerial exception in Pastor, Church & Law.

    Bill That Would Change HSAs Passes House. “The House of Representatives on July 25 passed two health care bills that could transform the use of tax-advantaged health savings accounts (HSAs). The bills, H.R. 6199 and H.R. 6311, are broader than the versions passed by the House Ways and Means Committee earlier this month and incorporate certain parts of other bills that had been approved by the committee. Both of the GOP-backed bills received some crossover support from Democrats. H.R. 6199, renamed the Restoring Access to Medication and Modernizing Health Savings Accounts Act and passed by a margin of 277-142, would:

    • Reverse the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) prohibition on using tax-favored health accounts to purchase over-the-counter medical products.
    • Treat menstrual care products as qualified medical expenses that could be purchased with all tax-advantaged health care accounts.
    • Treat certain sports and fitness expenses–including gym memberships and the cost to participate in certain physical exercise programs–as qualified medical expenses up to a limit of $500 a year for an individual and $1,000 a year for a family.”
      . . .

    To read the rest of these updates, see “House Passes Bills Enhancing HSAs” on the Society for Human Resource Management’s website. For more on compensation and benefits, see Setting Wages and Benefits for Church Staff.

    ‘Humanist Legal Society’ Formed to Litigate for Humanist Causes. “In a press release last week [July 19, 2018], the American Humanist Association announced the launching of a new organization: the Humanist Legal Society:

    The Humanist Legal Society’s aim is to provide a way for like-minded legal professionals—whether identifying as humanist, secular, atheist, agnostic, or something similar—to unite in advocating for principles consistent with the organization’s mission statement: the protection of civil liberties, strict separation of religion and government, legislation and public policies informed by sound scientific evidence, ethics in government and law enforcement, and respect for the diversity of individuals.”

    (From “New Organization: Humanist Legal Society,” Religion Clause).

    This organization is likely meant to have a similar purpose for humanist causes as organizations like the Christian Legal Society and Alliance Defending Freedom have for Christian causes.

    Watch Out for This New iTunes Scam. “Police are warning citizens of a scam in which an unknown person was asking church parishioners for iTunes gift cards to help pay for cancer treatment. According to an Eastern Adams Regional Police Facebook post (Adams County, Pennsylvania), the victim was contacted by email by an unknown person and was told that his priest at St. Francis Catholic Church had stated that another person in the parish had cancer and needed help. The unknown person requested a contribution of $200 in iTunes gift cards, and the victim proceeded to tell the unknown person the numbers off of the back of the cards. After the person received the numbers they stopped sending emails” (“Police warn of iTunes gift card scam affecting one Adams County church,” Fox43).

    See our coverage of the IRS’s “dirty dozen” tax scams list for last year, which is the same as the IRS’s 2018 list.

    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 Facebook or Twitter.

    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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