In this episode:
Universal Life Church v. King
We must call out heresy and false teaching. However, we should be aware of the legal ramifications of doing so. Churches can infringe upon trademarks or be sued for violation of consumer protection laws or defamation.
Temple Beth Shalom v. Commerce & Industry Insurance Company
If your church relies on the statement or conduct of another party to a transaction, that party is estopped - which means they are prohibited - from arguing the opposite of their statement or action. That works the other way around too. In this case, a contractor's insurance company acted to assume coverage of a workers' compensation claim. The temple relied upon that action which caused them to be unable to file a proper claim with their own insurance. This case shows how the insurance company could not argue that it was not responsible after it took actions to assume responsibility.
Churches do far too much by hand shake. Get it in writing and do what the writing says. Get legal counsel when you are uncertain of what to do in any situation. Deviations from a contract or failure to get legal counsel before acting or speaking on legal issues leads to cases like this one.
Shiloh Ministries Inc. v. Simco Exploration
Sometimes churches are gifted properties subject to ongoing contractual obligations. In this case, it was an oil and gas lease. This generated money for the church. If your church does this, make sure you are paying proper taxes as the income earned is probably taxable, and the property it is earned on is also probably not exempt from taxation.
Make sure you know what you are getting into. In this case, the Court found that the oil company did not have to remove piping that went to an allegedly dry well, but the court also found that it wasn't fair to make the church pay to maintain an easement for those pipes and ordered the lower courts to determine how much the oil company should have to pay in maintenance.
John Doe v. Boy Scouts and LDS Church
This case comes across my desk all the time. I bring it up only because this litigation started in 2013. We must take care to protect against child abuse in our churches, especially when we are trusting third parties in our facilities. If we don't, we could be looking at years of litigation.
Calvary Pentecostal Church v. FoxStone Group
Joint ventures with businesses can be good ways of using church facilities during the week. But we have to be careful. This was an effort to redevelop land surrounding the church. The church would sell the land and ostensibly share in the profits from the development.
There are a lot of issues to bring up here:
- Be careful with hand written language on a contract. Hand written language carries more weight than the rest of the contract.
- In joint ventures, the parties owe one another and the venture a fiduciary duty of good faith and fair dealing. Make sure everyone is aware of that going into it.
- Don't benefit from anything until it is final. Otherwise, your church could be found to have been unjustly enriched and ordered to compensate the party that enriched you.
This is a claim under the Religious Use of Land and Institutionalized Persons Act. Zoning ordinances cannot burden the exercise of religion on their face and local governments cannot apply zoning laws in a way that discriminate against churches. In this case, other large gatherings in the area occurred with the permission of the city, but now the city wants to disallow a once per week large gathering in this building. This is most often an issue church plants, multisite churches, and moving churches have to deal with.
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