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Definition of "Church" for Purposes of Civil Law

Some organizations may be labeled "religious" even if they exist for charitable purposes.

California
State:
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 ...

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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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Posted:
  • November 3, 1997

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