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Church Law & Tax Report

September/October 2017
Articles with a Member Access Only are available only to members.

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Feature Article

Building with Confidence

Building with Confidence Member access only

A legal and financial blueprint for church construction projects.

Articles

Public Benefit Programs Available to Churches

Public Benefit Programs Available to Churches Member access only

Excluding church from playground funding solely based on its religion violates First Amendment, Court says.
Church Liability for Publishing Information Online

Church Liability for Publishing Information Online Member access only

Despite dismissal, case shows precautions churches should take when handling private information.

Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches, with Richard R. Hammar
Alabama
Breach of Contract; Clergy - Removal; Judicial Resolution of Church Disputes

State Supreme Court Addresses Pastor's Rescinded Resignation Member access only

The central issue was the pastor's status, a question the court was barred from resolving by the constitutional protection of religious liberty.
Federal
Compensation and Benefits; Income Taxes - Clergy

Tax Court Rejects Pastor's Attempt to Avoid Taxes Through Vow of Poverty, Salary Renunciation Member access only

The use of funds for personal purposes indicates dominion and control, even over an account titled in the name of a church or other religious organization.
South Carolina
Church Records; Compensation and Benefits; Excess Benefit Transactions

Religious Corporation's Attempt to Block IRS Summons Rejected by Federal District Court Member access only

This case provides a helpful review of some of the protections of the Church Audit Procedures Act that were set forth in section 7611 of the tax code.
Texas
Church Members; Clergy - Selection; Judicial Resolution of Church Disputes

Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine Bars Court from Intervention in Dispute over Church Bylaw Compliance Member access only

Court could not adjudicate this case without interfering in inherently ecclesiastical matters of pastoral selection and church discipline.
Federal

Coffee Shop Founded by a Pastor Fails to Qualify for Tax-Exempt Status Member access only

A predominantly commercial enterprise will not qualify for tax-exempt status if its principal activities are indistinguishable from competing for-profit entities, even if it engages in occasional or insignificant activities in furtherance of its religious mission.

Q&A

Q&A: Is This "Humanitarian Effort" Possible—or Even Legal? Member access only

While this plan may be well intentioned, it must be abandoned immediately.