Pastor, Church & Law

Pastor, Church & Law

Chapter §


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

Both the author and Christianity Today’s Church Law & Tax Team would like to thank the following attorneys for their critical assistance with reviewing, updating, and expanding the immigration material covered in Chapter 3 and Chapter 8 of this book:

  • Attorney Gerald Cipolla, founder of the Chicago-based Cipolla Law Group, a firm specializing in immigration law (
  • Attorney Lina Yen Hughes, founder of the Sacramento, California-based Yen Hughes Law, P.C., a firm specializing in immigration law (
  • Attorney Anali Looper, an immigration attorney who directs the Waco, Texas-based office for American Gateways, a not-for-profit providing legal services to low-income immigrant communities throughout Texas (
  • Jeffrey Thomas and Matthew Myers, two attorneys with the Austin, Texas-based offices of Foster LLP, one of the largest immigration law firms in the country (

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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