02 Aug 2018

3 Court Cases You Need to Know About

Rachel Nissley

It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over. Here in Georgia, children are headed back to school and pumpkin decorations are starting to show up in stores. Even though I am not ready for it to be over, the season is changing.

It has been an interesting summer for the legal system. There have been several court cases that been decided. Those decisions, good or bad, will have lasting effects.

Just as the seasons change, we have to understand these changes and how they can affect our churches or ministries.

Masterpiece Cakeshop

Many of you may have followed this case, as Jack Phillips defended his right to refuse the request to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The case was originally decided in Colorado in favor of the couple, but the Supreme Court overturned that ruling in favor of Mr. Phillips in a landslide decision of 7-2, on June 4, 2018.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case sets a strong precedent that allows churches and ministries that have a for-profit arm to run and operate them in alignment with their religious beliefs and doctrines. Click here to read more about this case. 

Starting a for-profit arm is a great way to bring in money to fund your church’s activities while reaching your community.

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Faith-based, Christian Pregnancy Crisis Centers in California

Several years ago, California passed the F.A.C.T. Act, requiring all pregnancy crisis centers to provide information about free or low-cost abortions to all the women that they counseled.

This is regardless of the centers’ closely held religious beliefs about abortion.

Two CA pregnancy crisis centers challenged the F.A.C.T. Act, and on June 26th, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the pregnancy crisis centers, 5-4. None of the 200 centers in California will have to advise women about abortions or have abortion literature in their facilities.

This ruling confirmed that organizations that have deeply held religious beliefs do not have to act in a way that they are fundamentally opposed to. This ruling can have widespread implications for crisis pregnancy centers in other states.

Click here to learn more about this case.

Maryland Church vs. City of Laurel

The Maryland Church opened a coffee shop in the town of Laurel. On Sundays, the coffee shop closed and instead held a church service. In this case, the City of Laurel changed its zoning regulations to prohibit nonprofit businesses and small churches from being located in the downtown area of the city.

The church has applied for a special exemption, but it has yet to be granted.

The City of Laurel has sent cease and desists letters to the church. As a result, the church has filed a lawsuit against the city with the United States District Courts. As of yet, the case as not been heard. Click here to read more about this case. 

This may be concerning, which is why it is important to do your research when you decide to build. This is not the first time that zoning laws have prevented churches from pursuing their calling.

Don’t let details become a roadblock to your success. Click here to read about some steps you may want to take when purchasing or leasing a building. 

Protect Yourself From a Legal Battle

Even though the majority of these court cases ended well, no one wants to be caught up in a costly legal battle that could take years to be settled. Some legal issues cannot be avoided. Ephesians 6:13 urges us to resist evil and to stand firm in our faith.

But there are some actions that can be taken to ensure that your church or ministry is built on a strong legal foundation.

1. Make sure you have strong bylaws.

Your bylaws are a large part of the foundational documents of your church. Do you know what they say? If you don’t, you should. Your bylaws govern how your church operates.

As you review them, ask yourself, “Is there Scripture included?”

Implementing scriptural references throughout your bylaws is a protective measure that establishes the organization as religious in nature. This scriptural protection allows your church to make decisions based on faith while remaining in compliance with federal law.

2. Stay consistent in all of your practices

Bylaws are there to govern the way your church, ministry, nonprofit or for-profit arm operates. But the trick is to operate in accordance with them.

If your bylaws say one thing, but you operate your ministry in a different way, this could become problematic. Constancy is key to demonstrating that your beliefs are sincerely held and important to the way you operate.

3. Invest in your city

As your dreams grow and your heart becomes open to a new city or location, I strongly urge you to research the city.

Jesus did come to save us, but he didn’t come as a superhero in a cape: he came as a man who walked with people. He ate in their homes, heard their stories, and experienced life with them.

Take time to understand your city. What are their goals? How can the church come along side the city and dream with them? Everyone can win if you work together.

God has placed amazing dreams in your heart! Pursue those dreams boldly, protect them with a strong legal foundation that will help you secure the future or your church or ministry.

During your time at the conference, you will gain a richer understanding of how you can be a better steward with the ministry that God has called you to lead and serve.

Now is the perfect time! In August, we are running a special just for you - buy one get one free conference registrations! Our team is coming to your city, ready to help you change your community.

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Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Raul Rivera

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