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Refunding Contributions to Donors

Legal precedent for returning contributions is limited.

Background. Occasionally, a church member will ask to have his or her contributions returned. This can occur for various reasons. The member may move, change churches, experience a change in doctrine, or question church leadership or policies. Is a church required to return contributions to donors who request them under any of these circumstances? Very few courts have addressed this question, and so definitive guidance is lacking.

A recent case. A church member (Paul) sued his church seeking a refund of property he had donated to the church. He claimed that members' contributions were not a product of their free will; that the pastor's teaching on giving was based on a "misrepresentation of the Bible" and was fraudulent; and, that the pastor knew that his teaching was false and that members relied on it.

A trial court ruled that the civil courts are prohibited from resolving church disputes ...

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Posted:
  • March 1, 2007

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