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The Top 5 Reasons Religious Organizations Went to Court in 2015
The Top 5 Reasons Religious Organizations Went to Court in 2015
Has your church addressed these common legal liabilities and risk management concerns?
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4.Zoning (4.9% of cases). Many of these cases involve claims under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA" or "the Act"). RLUIPA was enacted by unanimous consent of both the Senate and House of Representatives in 2000. It addresses two areas where religious freedom had been threatened: (1) land-use regulation, and (2) persons in prisons, mental hospitals, nursing homes, and similar institutions.

RLUIPA specifies that state and local governments cannot subject religious organizations to a "land use regulation" that imposes a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion unless the law is supported by a compelling governmental interest. The courts have reached conflicting conclusions regarding the application of RLUIPA, and the meaning of a "substantial burden on religious exercise."

5. Insurance coverage disputes (4.5% of cases). It's common for churches and their insurers to end up in court, often in a declaratory judgment action, in which a court is asked to determine if coverage is available under a church's policy for a particular claim. Common kinds of coverage disputes include the intentional misconduct exclusion, the employment practices exclusion, the duty of prompt notification, and misrepresentations on the application for insurance.

Church leaders should review their policies with their insurance agents to understand what is covered, what isn't covered, and what special types of coverage must be obtained. Senior church leadership should handle insurance applications, or at least review them, to make sure careless mistakes aren't made that might be later viewed as "misrepresentations on the application for insurance."

For more help with understanding these issues or preventing them, check out these resources:

Richard Hammar is an attorney, CPA, and the senior editorial advisor to Church Law & Tax.

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.

July 7, 2016


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