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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.

David Middlebrook is an attorney licensed to practice in Texas, Colorado, and the District of Columbia, and his practice emphasis is focused on representing tax-exempt organizations.

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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Posted:
  • May 11, 2010

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