Churches and clergy have long enjoyed a privileged position throughout the nation’s history. In part, this status derived from the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. But it derived as well from public deference.
In the latter half of the twentieth century, however, a profound change occurred. Nearly every privilege enjoyed by churches and clergy under Federal, state and local law has been challenged in the courts under the First Amendments’ nonestablishment of religion clause. Many challenges have been successful. Churches and clergy suddenly find themselves subject to many laws and regulations that formerly had not applied. The applicability of several other laws is an increasing possibility.
Predictably, much confusion and uncertainty surrounds the application of many of these laws. My objective in writing Pastor, Church & Law is to help reduce this confusion and uncertainty by providing seminary students, clergy, attorneys, and accountants with a comprehensive yet readable analysis of the major laws affecting churches and clergy. My intended audience is diverse. Yet, I have endeavored to present the materials in a manner that will be easily comprehended by those having no familiarity with the law. Technical materials and citations of authority are presented in footnotes, which will assist the attorney and accountant in further understanding and pursuing many of the subjects considered.
Although I have attempted to present the law as it is rather than confuse the reader with a dissertation on how it should be, I have not hesitated to express my opinion when I considered it appropriate. I wanted the text to reflect my own experience as an attorney and CPA. I have participated in dozens of lawsuits involving churches and denominations, taught several seminary courses based on the book, conducted a myriad of seminars for church leaders and counseled with thousands of church leaders on legal and tax issues. The perspective that only these kinds of experiences can provide is reflected throughout the book. This is not the product of a theoretician or academic. It is the product of an active practitioner.
Richard R. Hammar