Clergy are often grossly underrepresented and even misguided, often by well-meaning congregations. At the heart of the problem lies a unique dilemma: employee or friend? Most professionals, even psychotherapists to whom patients impart their most personal thoughts and feelings, can draw a clear line between work and patient interaction. Clergy, on the other hand, are employees of the very same people to whom they minister and preach and with whom they are expected to develop a relationship based in spirituality, trust, love and understanding.
As a result, clergy often make decisions and agreements on a handshake and good faith rather than on business acumen and the kind of pragmatism they owe to themselves and their families. Abraham Lincoln, himself a lawyer, famously said that “one who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Clergy, who spend their lives imparting wisdom to others, also deserve wise counsel in their relations with their employers.
Our attorneys have represented clients in the following representative matters:
- Represented numerous members of the clergy in negotiating and drafting employment agreements.
- Represented minister whose tenure had been terminated by the board of trustees in an intra-congregational dispute involving the board and other clergy, resulting in a member vote overturning the board’s decision and reinstatement of the minister’s tenure.
- Represented a clergyman in major criminal fraud investigation by United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and United States Postal Inspector.
- Negotiated maternity leave for a pregnant minister whose employment agreement was silent on the subject and whose congregation was unwilling to grant her sufficient leave.
- Obtained judgment dismissing church’s defamation action against pastor.
- Represented a pastor in criminal charges involving organizational theft. Successfully obtained dismissal of most charges.
- Obtained U.S. visas for foreign national ministers, missionaries and members of religious orders.
- Represented bishop in federal contract litigation.