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Embezzlement

The Supreme Court of North Dakota ruled that the first amendment did not prevent a priest from being prosecuted for embezzlement of church funds.

State v. Burckhard, 579 N.W.2d 194 (N.D. 1998)
Keypoint 4-09. Clergy who divert church funds to their personal use face possible criminal and civil liability.

The Supreme Court of North Dakota ruled that the first amendment did not prevent a priest from being prosecuted for embezzlement of church funds. The priest served as pastor of a local Roman Catholic church. The state charged that he "knowingly took and exercised unauthorized control over money in excess of $100,000" belonging to the church and spent the money on personal items such as the payment of personal credit cards, payments to personal stock brokers, payments for unauthorized personal bills, payments for sporting equipment, payments to relatives, and payments for fishing trips, all with intent to deprive his church of the money. The priest asked the court to dismiss the case on the ground that it would involve ...

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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:
  • January 3, 2000

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