Church Members Sue Their Pastor and Church
Disgruntled members of the Southern Acres Christian Church in Lexington, KY sued their Pastor and First Lady because they felt that he was concentrating too much financial power to himself, his wife, and one other Board Member. The situation became so divisive that the Police Department had to be called to the Church during a Sunday morning service.
In Georgia a Church Member has sued because she believes the way the Pastor prayed for her resulted in a brain injury. She stated that when the Pastor was invoking blessings on people at the altar, he forcibly placed his hand on her head, causing her to fall, hit her head and lose consciousness.
In New Jersey the Pastor removed three members from the choir because they were caught smoking (which is contrary to the beliefs of the Church). The three choir members sued the Church and Pastor to be reinstated. Fortunately, in this incident the Church was victorious.
In Gibson County TN a Church Member sued his Church because they voted to change their name. The Church Member, an attorney, in his suit declared the vote to be illegal and void, and filed a lawsuit demanding a new vote.
In Pontiac MI a former Board Member and his wife sued the Church demanding they return his and his wife’s contribution. The Board Member and his spouse made the contribution as a designated offering. According to the Church bylaws all designated offerings must be used for that which they were designated.
More On the Horizon
These are just a small amount of lawsuits targeting Churches. According to one report the American Bar Association conducted a symposium in 1992 with its lead agenda as “How to Sue Churches.”
As of this date about 1000 Churches per month are targeted in tortious acts—most of these are from Church members or former members. Based upon these numbers it is no longer a question of, “Will my Church be sued. . .but when?”
How to Minimize Your Church’s Exposure to Lawsuits
There are several policies a Church can implement to limit its exposure to tortious acts. Time and space will not permit me to cover all of them, but here are a few:
- Adopt extensive legal and spiritual bylaws and clear operating procedures
These bylaws and policies should dictate everything the Church believes and how its day-to-day operations are carried out. In the event of a lawsuit the courts will likely refer to the Church’s bylaws for guidelines as to how the suit should be settled.
- Obey Copyright Laws
Unfortunately, Churches and Church members are infamous for illegally using copyrighted material.
- Obtain Background Reports on those in Leadership positions
This is especially true for anyone who works with the youth in a Church environment.
These are just a few. There are several more that Churches and Church Leaders should immediately install and apply to their Church community.
Why You Need Us
Chitwood & Chitwood has 80 years of experience in protecting Churches in matters of Church Management and Oversight. Churches that follow our guidance, even if they were included in a lawsuit, have been victorious in the outcome.
This and other vital topics are covered in our one-day seminars across the nation. We not only teach a great deal of what a Church should do to protect its assets and its membership, but we also make available information that will empower the Church to continue with its due diligence.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is much better for the Church and its Leadership to be proactive in any matters that could create legal hurdles. This is why every Pastor, Pastor’s Spouse, and Church Board Member should attend the next Church Management Conference. To register visit our website at www.cmtc.org or call 800-344-0076.
Do not wait until a Process Server has served you with a notice of a lawsuit against you.