As organizations that are not-for-profit and largely volunteer directed, religious institutions are prone to doing things informally, often on a handshake. Since many boards of directors or trustees include lawyers, contracts are often drafted in-house by those inexperienced in the legalities, particulars and nuances involved with the laws that govern religious institutions.
Flowing from this informal tendency, religious institutions frequently limit or forego insurance as the first step in cutting expenses, at times with disastrous results. Each religious institution should adopt and update an overall insurance program to protect it from the same types of risks faced by an individual or for-profit business.
In hiring a contractor or buying major goods or services, religious institutions frequently sign the contract given to them by the seller or service provider—which may be highly unfavorable to the buyer. Religious institutions should bargain on level ground, and should negotiate important contracts rather than simply accepting vendors’ initial terms.
Our attorneys have represented clients in the following representative matters:
- Represented religious institutions in resolving disputed debts.
- Represented a clergyman in intra-congregational dispute after its board of directors voted to terminate his employment, resulting in reversal by congregation and reinstatement of clergyman.
- Advised houses of worship on issues relating to the termination of professional employees and clergy, and represented them in negotiating termination agreements.
- Obtained “R-1” and special immigrant religious worker visas for pastors and other church personnel.
- Conducted two-week jury trial resulting in verdict exonerating defendant from claims of copyright infringement.
- Obtained reinstatement of church’s local real property tax exemption.
- Advised religious institutions concerning potential liability for municipal water bills arising from sublease of space in house of worship.
- Negotiated contracts between religious institutions and commercial entities.