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Church Liability for Accounting Irregularities

A court's ruling provides important insight for all church leaders.

Last Reviewed: April 1, 2021

Background

A court in the District of Columbia ruled that the first amendment guaranty of religious freedom prevents the civil courts from resolving internal church disputes over accounting and reporting practices, except in limited circumstances. The court relied on principles that will be useful precedent to other churches in similar cases.

Can a church be sued by its own members as a result of sloppy accounting and reporting practices? This was the issue before a court in the District of Columbia in a recent case. A member sued her church on the basis of "negligent accounting and reporting to church members." The court's ruling will be instructive to all church leaders, particularly those with any concerns regarding the regularity of their church's accounting and reporting practices.

Facts

A woman who had served as a church's financial secretary for many years was dismissed ...

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Posted:
  • March 3, 1997
  • Last Reviewed: April 1, 2021