Church Law & Tax Report

March/April 2007
Articles with a Member Access Only are available only to members.

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Feature Article

Must Churches Pay Overtime and the Minimum Wage? Member access only

Two federal courts address the issue.

Articles

Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches, with Richard R. Hammar
Indiana
Criminal Liability

Chaplains and Miranda Warnings Member access only

It is important for police chaplains to clearly understand when they are required to provide Miranda warnings.
Oregon
Church Members; Members - Discipline

Disruptive Church Members Member access only

An adult male who exhibited bizarre behavior in his church and community could not be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital since he was not a danger to himself.
New York
Church Property; Church Property Disputes

Legal Owners of Church Property  Member access only

A New York court ruled that a parent denomination held title to the property of a local church that voted to disaffiliate from the denomination.
New York
Church Members; Church Records; Confidential and Privileged Communications

Inspecting Church Records Member access only

Most state nonprofit corporation laws give members a legal right to inspect corporate records for a "proper purpose."
Mississippi
Confidential and Privileged Communications; Counseling; Privacy

Clergy-Penitent Privilege and Confidentiality Member access only

In many states, the presence of third persons during a conversation with a minister will prevent the conversation from being privileged.
Tennessee
Confidential and Privileged Communications; Counseling; Privacy

Clergy-Penitent Privilege and Observations Member access only

Ministers can be compelled to testify regarding their "observations" or general impressions of a counselee's demeanor.
Federal
Denominations - Legal Liability; Employment Practices

Application of Laws to Specified Number of Employees Member access only

Some federal employment laws apply only to employers having a specified number of employees.
Washington
Denominations - Legal Liability; Sexual Misconduct by Clergy, Lay Employees, and Volunteers

The Ministerial Exception and Lawsuits Member access only

A federal court in Washington ruled that the "ministerial exception" prevented it from resolving several claims against a religious organization.
South Carolina
Contracts; Schools

Building Rental for Church Use Member access only

A federal court in South Carolina ordered a public school district to continue allowing a church to rent a school building for weekly worship services.
Alabama
Officers, Directors, and Trustees

Internal Church Disputes Member access only

The courts will not resolve disputes regarding a church's spiritual or ecclesiastical affairs.
Personal Injuries on Church Property or During Church Activities; Schools

Release Forms Usefulness Member access only

Release forms should not be relied upon, and certainly should not be viewed as a substitute for sound risk management.
New York
Sexual Harassment; Sexual Misconduct by Clergy, Lay Employees, and Volunteers

Sexual Harassment and Church Employees Member access only

A federal court in New York ruled that a local church and denominational agency could be sued for the sexual harassment of a church employee by two pastors.
New York
Clergy - Discipline and Removal; Sexual Harassment; Sexual Misconduct by Clergy, Lay Employees, and Volunteers

Risks of Pastoral Counseling Services Member access only

Church leaders should never ignore "warning signs" that a staff member (employee or volunteer) has a propensity to engage in a particular kind of harmful conduct.
Nebraska
Clergy - Discipline and Removal; Sexual Harassment; Sexual Misconduct by Clergy, Lay Employees, and Volunteers

Sexual Abuse and Church Responsibility Member access only

A federal court in Nebraska ruled that two churches were not responsible on the basis of negligent hiring or supervision for a pastor's sexual molestation of his minor daughter.
North Dakota
Child Abuse; Sexual Harassment

Sex Offenders and Church Attendance Member access only

Any decision to allow a known sex offender to attend church, even with conditions, should not be made without the assistance of legal counsel.
California
Wills, Trusts, and Estates

Delegation of Trusts  Member access only

The decisions of trustees regarding the distribution of trust income or principal ordinarily will be upheld by the courts.

Q&A

Q&A: Can Church Board Meet Without the Pastor? Member access only

The answer depends on the wording of your church's governing documents.