Q&A: Reducing Liability for Church Board Members

Can a church board be sued for mishandling a situation involving the pastor?

Can a church board be sued for mishandling a situation involving the pastor? Is there insurance available to cover this liability?

Board is a corporate term (short for “board of directors”) that assumes that the church is incorporated as a nonprofit corporation or its equivalent. One of the benefits of incorporation is that the individual officers and directors are not personally liable for the actions they take on behalf of the corporation. Many states also offer charitable immunity to persons acting on behalf of their church, although some states are more protective than others. However, whenever there is an allegation against a church, it is now extremely commonplace for the complaining party to individually name the board members as parties to the complaint. One of the initial challenges in defending a church is to get those individual board members removed as parties on the basis that they are not individually liable or are protected by charitable immunity. If a church is not incorporated, but is known as an “unincorporated association,” then all of its members, including the board, are potentially liable for church activities.

Some organizations obtain a mix of liability insurance as well as errors and omissions coverage for directors in the event there is a liability issue.

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