Churches must address corporate formation and governance issues, tax exempt regulations, and a myriad of church growth legal challenges.
Despite Thomas Jefferson’s best efforts, the Church and the State do intersect. From their very inception, churches must address corporate formation and governance issues, tax exempt regulations, and a myriad of church growth legal challenges. There are also liability concerns, such as church security, child safety, and employment/termination policies, to name a few. Most dramatically, recent legal developments have made LGBT issues a real operational concern in churches that subscribe to traditional Christian theology and doctrine – from ordination, to hiring practices, to facility use policies, and beyond. Are you satisfied that your church is compliant and protected in all of these areas? What would the impact on your church be if a child was abducted or abused in your nursery? What if you were sued by an employment candidate who was rejected due to their sexual orientation? What would the impact be if one of your church officers or employees embezzled church funds? Of course, the Church has an obligation to protect its members, particularly the children. Beyond that most important consideration, though, the implications of getting any of these issues wrong range from diversion of church resources and personnel to attend to legal issues, decreasing membership, damage to the church’s witness, loss of tax-exempt status, and/or judicial imposition of fines or judgments, any of which can potentially cripple a church. Having legal counsel that understands civil law as it relates to church and ecclesiastical matters can reduce potential tax and civil liabilities, thereby increasing ministry opportunities and the dollars that fund them. Parents who know that their child is safe in the church nursery and Sunday School classroom are more likely to become members. Tithes and offerings that are deductible on the giver’s taxes are likely to be larger.
We understand the unique challenges that churches face in a changing legal and social landscape. We have worked with ecclesiastical bodies ranging from 100-member churches to multi-million-member international denominations, on matters ranging from church formation to church governance issues. We have represented churches in litigation with millions of dollars of property and assets at stake. Our expertise can help you rest assured that your children are safe by giving you solutions for hiring children ministry staff and drop-off/pick-up processes. We can help you develop hiring, leadership and church-use policies that are theologically and doctrinally consistent, while also being legally defensible.