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Officers, Directors, and Trustees

• Can a civil court overturn a church's election of trustees? That was the issue before a New York state court. Five of the church's original trustees filed a lawsuit asking a state court to declare "null and void" two elections of trustees and officers. The first election filled a vacancy that occurred when a trustee died, and the second election attempted to add new trustees to the church board. The five trustees claimed that (1) state religious corporation law specifies that vacancies in a church's board of trustees are to be filled by the remaining trustees, and not by the church membership in an election; and (2) state religious corporation law permits an increase in the number of trustees only if the church's charter (articles of incorporation) is amended. Since the charter was not amended, the election of additional trustees was improper. A trial court agreed with the five trustees, ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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  • July 2, 1990