Abuse Reporting Lawsuit • Anti-Discrimination Ordinance • Gun Laws Research: News Roundup
    This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
    Abuse Reporting Lawsuit • Anti-Discrimination Ordinance • Gun Laws Research: News Roundup
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    Mississippi River Bridge - Baton Rouge

    Louisiana Church Wins Lawsuit over Confession, Sexual Abuse Reporting. “A long legal battle between the Catholic Church and a woman who argued she tried to use a confession as a way to report sexual abuse against a church parishioner has ended. In a news release announcing its pleasure with the outcome, the Diocese of Baton Rouge said it and Father Jeff Bayhi had been dismissed from the lawsuit. The lawsuit argued a priest should have to report being told about child abuse while hearing a confession—a meeting faithful believe is an exchange between themselves and a messenger of God who can clear their sins. In most cases, state law requires people with knowledge of child sex abuse to report such crimes to authorities. Though, a September 2017 ruling by a district court judge in Baton Rouge found priests were not bound under the law. . . . Judge Mike Caldwell agreed when he ruled last year part of the law that would require priests to be mandatory reporters of abuse learned during ‘privileged conversations’ was unconstitutional” (“Catholic Church wins lawsuit over confession,” WBRZ 2).

    Make sure you’re familiar with these 21 facts about child abuse reporting laws.

    Wisconsin Churches, Radio Station Challenge City’s Anti-Discrimination Ordinance. “Five churches and a Christian radio station filed suit last week in a Wisconsin state trial court challenging a De Pere city anti-discrimination ordinance that does not clearly exempt religious organizations. The complaint (full text) in Hope Lutheran Church v. City of De Pere . . . says that the city has not been willing to assure churches and religious organizations that they will be exempt from the employment and public accommodation provisions of the law that takes effect next month. The complaint contends: ‘As a result, the ordinance is likely to be imposed on churches and other religious organizations in a manner that would mandate government orthodoxy in core religious functions, communication, and conduct’” (“Religious Organizations Challenge City’s New Anti-Discrimination Law,” Religion Clause).

    Learn more about public accommodation laws (and how they affect your church) in this article.

    Research Shows White Evangelicals Support Stronger Gun Laws. “White evangelicals hold the same views as most Americans on many proposals to restrict access to guns, but are also among the biggest advocates for a more divisive idea that has come up following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting: arming classroom teachers. Along with Americans across religious groups, white evangelicals strongly support laws to prevent people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns and to require background checks to purchase firearms at gun shows or through private sales, according to 2017 Pew Research Center data provided to CT. Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) of both white evangelicals and Americans overall endorse mental illness restrictions, while about 8 in 10 white evangelicals (80%) and Americans overall (84%) favor the expanded use of background checks. Though white evangelicals tend to be less eager to see the government adopt stricter gun laws, they actually show similar levels of support for individual policy measures as the rest of the country” (“Pew: White Evangelicals Want Stricter Gun Laws Too,” Christianity Today).

    How secure is your church? Use this downloadable resource to assess your current security efforts.

    Nebraska Church Denied Tax Exemption. “After exempting Gering Bible Missionary Church from over $5,500 of back taxes at its Feb. 5 meeting, the Scotts Bluff Board of Equalization rescinded that exemption and denied it during its Tuesday meeting. The church failed to apply for tax exemption in 2016 and missed the late-filing date on June 30, 2016. . . . County Assessor Amy Ramos said a reminder had been sent out to properties that lost tax exemption status. [Commissioner Ken] Meyer said he was sorry the church could not get a tax exemption, but that the commissioners are ultimately unable to make any decision affecting the back taxes” (“Commissioners reverse tax exemption for Gering church,” Star-Herald).

    Check out our Legal Library for more information on churches and tax exemptions.

    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 on Facebook.

    Emily Lund is assistant editor 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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