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Issues that affect ministers and churches
Definition of "Church" for Purposes of Civil Law
Some organizations may be labeled "religious" even if they exist for charitable purposes.
California
Key point. Some organizations affiliated with a church or denominational agency may be deemed "religious organizations" for purposes of civil law even though they were organized for charitable purposes.

! A California court ruled that a hospital affiliated with the Methodist church was a "religious corporation" for purposes of a state civil rights law banning discrimination in employment on the basis of age. A 50—year—old nurse was dismissed by her employer (a hospital) for exceeding four months of medical leave in the same year. She sued the hospital, claiming that it was guilty of age discrimination in violation of a state civil rights law. The hospital claimed that the law exempted "religious corporations" and that it was therefore exempt because of its affiliation with the Methodist church. A state appeals court agreed, on the basis of the following factors: (1) the hospital was "created, organized, and is governed (at least partially) by members of the United Methodist Church"; (2) its articles of incorporation state that upon dissolution, its assets will revert to the United Methodist Church; (3) its bylaws require that a majority of its board members belong to the United Methodist Church, and that at least one other board member must be a Methodist minister; (4) its directors are elected annually by a Methodist agency; (5) it is accredited by the United Methodist Church; (6) a Methodist chaplain ministers to patients, and the hospital broadcasts daily sermons to patients' rooms.

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