Nonprofit Liability By Josh Chumley
Is Your Nonprofit Prepared for this Liability?
Leaders of Christian ministries have begun to face more pressure from the culture these days. And the pressure is becoming more acute, especially when it comes to legal threats.
Those who are in ministry can sometimes feel overwhelmed at assessing risks to the ministry. Beyond the ordinary legal risks associated with any nonprofit—things like slip and fall cases, accounting fraud, or the various legal negotiations that are necessary in today’s world—ministries today face a new kind of legal risk.
A New Liability
The new question that many ministries face – though they may not yet know it – is if they have the ability to continue their missions in a uniquely Christian manner.
Can a ministry hire personnel who hold to its beliefs and values, or must it abandon statements of faith when it begins employing and serving others in a structured setting?
If a ministry is a recipient of government funding, does it also have to accept the overtly secular strings attached?
If a ministry serves members of the public, it may find itself with new difficulty surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity laws.
And if the ministry is a faith-based adoption or foster care provider, it may even face the risk of being driven out of business.
An Emerging Trend
The trend is this: the religious nature of ministries is no longer respected. The rights that ministries enjoy because of their religious nature are being challenged.
If nothing is done to reverse this trend, Christian leaders will see a future where ministries may be stripped of their religious nature and forced into behaving like any other nonprofit. The critical components of your ministry, like who you employ, how you serve, and where you serve, may no longer be a “given.”
Ministry leaders who are passionate about the religious nature of what they do should take notice of this shift. If you consider your mission to be the way you glorify God in your work, you might find the implications of these legal trends and challenges disconcerting.
What You Can Do
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – a religious nonprofit organization itself – is on the forefront of legal challenges to many of the religious freedom threats affecting ministries. ADF attorneys recommend, first and foremost, that Christian ministries take proactive measures to help prepare and protect themselves.
While this may look different for a Christian school than it does for a homeless shelter or Christian media company, one of the best practices is to ensure that your ministry’s governing documents and policies reflect your religious beliefs and biblical convictions.
You may have heard similar advice from ADF or other legal organizations in the past. However, ADF has launched a new initiative that helps ministries receive more comprehensive legal services to protect their religious liberty.
Alliance Defending Freedom launched ADF Ministry Alliance in order to prepare, advise, and protect Christian ministries as the legal culture continues to test the limits of religious freedom. This membership program provides members with direct access to attorneys who can help you revise your documents, as well as provide ongoing legal advice on matters relating to religious freedom. Membership also provides ministries with representation in legal matters relating to religious freedom.
We invite you to learn more about how ADF Ministry Alliance helps with the new legal issues Christian ministries face – because every ministry is worth protecting.
Josh Chumley is Deputy Director of ADF Ministry Alliance, a membership initiative launched by Alliance Defending Freedom to provide focused, practical legal help to Christian ministries so you can freely minister.
If you are concerned about legal trends and what you need to know – then register for The Outcomes Conference 2019 to make sure you are up to speed with the latest laws and trends. Cover all the bases by registering and participating in the Tax & Legal track.
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