Recently, the sharply divided Supreme Court of the United States ruled same-sex marriage to be a constitutional right. Many have commented that this decision will in no way affect Ministers of the Gospel and Christian Churches. However, this may not be the case.
The U.S. Supreme Court has proven their desire to re-write the Constitution anytime a disgruntled few in society demand it, especially when those demands are spoken from people who feel as if their “civil” rights have been violated.
Some would cite previous Court precedents to support the claim that Ministers and Churches are exempt from this duty due to the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Unfortunately, our modern courts have no problem over-riding previously held precedents.
In a 2007 New York Times Article, Linda Greenhouse makes the case as to why precedent may no longer be considered a “given.” She stated: “No Supreme Court nominee could be confirmed these days without paying homage to the judicial doctrine of “stare decisis,” Latin for “to stand by things decided.” Yet experienced listeners have learned to take these professions of devotion to precedent “cum grano salis,” Latin for “with a grain of salt.”
When referring to the “Stare Decisis,” former Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist declared that it was not an unalterable command. Our Courts have overturned 35 precedents in the past 30 years.
This makes it questionable as to how long Pastors and Churches will be protected under the First Amendment that guarantees religious freedom. If the tenor of the Court should shift and another lawsuit be placed before for review, all the American Church has appreciated since our founding, could be stripped with the stroke of a pen.
Some Churches and Pastors in Canada and other “Christian” nations have already felt the brunt of a “hate crimes” act motivated to control the speech and actions from the pulpit.
I would highly suggest that every Pastor and Church take necessary steps NOW to protect themselves.
Here are some steps you should take today:
1. Ensure that your House of Worship is in order.
Are you properly incorporated and does your incorporation provide for you to legally perform the functions in which you engage? Are you in order with the IRS? Just because you are a Church or Minister does not necessarily exempt you from certain IRS regulations.
2. Do your by-laws explicitly proclaim everything that is needed for your protection?
A Church should not be engaging in anything that violates its written dictates. What about article 14? Is it in order? Chitwood and Chitwood have 77 years of experience in helping Churches and Ministers. We are the best.
3. Are you an IRS determined 501 (c) (3)?
Some mistakenly think just because they have a Determination Letter from the IRS that they are okay. Make sure you are recognized as a Church. Also make sure as a Church you are operating as such. Every Church should have a mission and purpose statement. Are you operating accordingly?
4. Are your ordination credentials in order and legally recognized?
Certain groups can ordain you for God’s purposes, but by not disclosing, you are illegal for tax purposes. I know of a situation in a neighboring state where a man served as a pastor for years. However, he had never been properly ordained by a recognized ordaining body.
During his years as a Pastor he performed marriage ceremonies for many couples. All was well until one of those couples entered divorce proceedings and the groom challenged the credentials of the minister. The court ruled the marriage was null and void because the Pastor was not properly ordained. The trickle-down effect was enormous.
Contact our sister organization, the International Congress of Churches and Ministers at www.iccmworldwide.org for assistance in obtaining properly recognized Ministerial Credentials.
Until recently the Church in the United States was well-respected by saint and sinner, politicians, businesses, and governmental agencies. Those days are no more. “The system” is in place and if the Church is to be effective we must learn to operate within “the system,” but yet still fulfill the Great Commission. Chitwood and Chitwood is the best in the world at protecting God’s people and God’s Church. To obtain a legal compliance review, and protect your Church and congregation, send a private e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and reference Eight Legal Documents. With us, it is all about ministry.
If you are a new Church upstart, solve your problems before they begin by starting Church right. We are the premier organization in this field.