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A quick review of the most important information in this edition

September/October 2017

A new building project can spark incredible growth for a church. But poor financial planning and unexpected legal issues can also produce stress and conflict that may end up splitting a church. A Feature Article walks readers through the five key steps of the new construction process, pointing out specific areas that must be addressed to successfully complete each step.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the church autonomy doctrine deprives the civil courts of jurisdiction not only to resolve internal church disputes involving matters of "faith, doctrine, church governance, and polity," but also collateral claims that are "inextricably intertwined" with these core ecclesiastical principles. For this reason, the court concluded that a church's publication of a Muslim convert's baptism on the internet could not be resolved by the civil courts. This case and its implications for other churches are addressed in a Secondary Article.

In a historic decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that excluding churches or other religious organizations from a state program, which provided free playground surfacing to any school or preschool, violated the First Amendment's protection of the free exercise of religion. This case and its implications for other churches is analyzed in a Secondary Article.

The IRS ruled that a "coffee shop" established by a church for personal evangelism in an urban area did not qualify for tax-exempt status since it was indistinguishable in operation from secular, for-profit coffee shops.

The Alabama Supreme Court addressed the question of whether a pastor who had resigned his position could later retract his resignation.

The "ecclesiastical abstention" doctrine prevented a Texas court from resolving an internal church dispute regarding a church's compliance with its bylaws in selecting a new pastor and dismissing several dissident members.

In reversing an appeals court ruling, the US Supreme Court ruled that Advocate Health Care Network qualified as an exempt church. The decision was considered a "major win to religiously affiliated health care systems," reported Religion Clause.

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