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Church Law & Tax Report

July/August 2017
Articles with a Member Access Only are available only to members.

Feature Article

Is Your Church Breaking Public Accommodations Laws?

Is Your Church Breaking Public Accommodations Laws? Member access only

To answer this question, churches must be well-versed in federal, state, and local laws.


Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches, with Richard R. Hammar
Wills, Trusts, and Estates

Provisions in Decedent’s Will Could Be Reformed by Recourse Based on Religious Charities’ Extrinsic Evidence Member access only

The court noted that "the charities have articulated a valid theory that will support reformation if established by clear and convincing evidence."
New York
Wills, Trusts, and Estates

Restrictive Provision in Churches’ Charitable Trust Can Be Expanded to Allow Additional Investments  Member access only

Case demonstrates that the low rates of return on such investments may enable churches to obtain a court order authorizing a broader range of investment options.
Sexual Misconduct by Clergy, Lay Employees, and Volunteers

Judge’s Severe Comments During Youth Pastor’s Trial Ruled Insufficient Grounds to Reverse Conviction Member access only

Court fairly considered all of the evidence presented at trial and, despite its harsh rhetoric, imposed a sentence significantly under the maximum aggregate term that defendant faced.
New York
Personal Injuries on Church Property or During Church Activities

Student Successfully Appeals Lawsuit Against Synagogue for Injuries Sustained During Study Abroad Program Member access only

Case demonstrates that the host organization may be legally responsible for injuries that occur.
Church Members; Defamation

Court Rules First Amendment Bars Its Involvement in Defamation Claim Against Couple’s Former Pastor and Church Member access only

Case illustrates the reluctance of the civil courts to resolve internal church disputes involving the discipline or dismissal of members.

Court Rules Church’s Insurance Policy Exclusion Precludes Coverage for Church in Negligence Lawsuit Member access only

Sexual misconduct exclusions in church insurance policies may apply even though a church is being sued on the basis of vicarious liability, negligence, or some other form of "indirect" liability.

Trial Court’s Order Banning Man Guilty of Food Stamp Fraud from Food Pantries Ruled Unlawful  Member access only

Churches that run food pantries need to ensure that beneficiaries are not obtaining food and then selling their food stamps to raise money for themselves.
Breach of Contract; Clergy - Discipline and Removal; Officers, Directors, and Trustees

Pastor’s Breach of Contract Lawsuit Against Board Members Dismissed by Court Member access only

The court concluded that church board members are not personally liable for breach of contract, since "whenever a corporation makes a contract, it is the contract of the legal entity … and not the contract of the individual members."
North Carolina
Clergy - Discipline and Removal; Compensation and Benefits

Court Willing to Resolve Pastor’s Lawsuit Against Church for Compensation Dispute Member access only

Court ruled that it was not barred by the "ministerial exception" and "ecclesiastical abstention doctrine" from resolving a claim by a pastor that his church had failed to pay him the salary and benefits to which they had contractually agreed.
Clergy - Discipline and Removal

‘Ministerial Exception’ Prevents Court from Resolving Dismissed Minister’s Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Member access only

The court concluded if the application of the ministerial exception is obvious from the face of a civil lawsuit, then a pre-discovery motion to dismiss is appropriate.
New Jersey
Arbitration; Charters, Constitutions, and Bylaws

Mosque Members’ Lawsuit Concerning Financial Improprieties Must Be Resolved By Binding Arbitration Due to Mosque Bylaws’ Arbitration Clause Member access only

Court concluded that the mosque's bylaws constitute a contract between it and plaintiffs.


Q&A: Do Donor Envelopes Substantiate Contributions?

Q&A: Do Donor Envelopes Substantiate Contributions? Member access only

Envelopes have a number of advantages, but substantiating donations isn't one of them.