Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Church Liability for Accounting Irregularities
A court's ruling provides important insight for all church leaders.

A court's ruling provides important insights for all church leaders - Bible Way Church v. Beards, 680 A.2d 419 (D.C. App. 1996)

[Church Records, Internal Property Dispute Resolution Procedures, The Free Exercise Clause]

Article summary. 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. This feature article fully considers the facts and significance of this important ruling.

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. This article will review the facts of the case, summarize the court's ruling, and then evaluate the significance of the case to other churches.

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Posted: March 3, 1997
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