Churches cannot operate without regard for the legal environment. Otherwise, they could risk their finances and continued ability to serve congregants. Every church needs a lawyer to help them be proactive and help them avoid potential legal pitfalls. Investing in legal help now can mean that a church avoids problems in the future. Here are five reasons why every church should work with an attorney.
Protect the Church From Litigation
Churches can be sued just like any other entity. From premises liability cases to sexual abuse lawsuits, a church can be at risk for litigation. Attorneys can help protect a church in its day-to-day operations. The institution may need assistance conducting its business in a way that does not open itself up to liability.
Then, a church would need a lawyer if it was sued. An attorney could advise the church whether it is best to defend against the lawsuit or attempt to settle the case. The church may be forced to go to court and take a case to trial.
Legal Compliance With Laws and Regulations
A church must comply with several civil regulations. One common set of rules is health and safety regulations. For example, a church must comply with fire safety regulations, especially because many people are in the building. In addition, the church’s structure must comply with state and local building codes. Certain personnel would need specific training to work in their roles.
Churches may not even know the myriad of rules that they need to follow. An attorney could review the legal landscape and advise church officials about the applicable rules.
Maintain Tax-Exempt Status
One of the major financial benefits of a church is that donations made to it are tax-exempt. The church would usually fall under the umbrella of a 501(c)(3) organization. Congregants and others have a financial incentive to donate to the church because they can deduct it from their income taxes.
However, there are ways that a church can lose the all-important tax-exempt status. For example, the church may conduct too many activities for private benefit. Alternatively, the church may venture too far into politics. An attorney can review church activities to ensure they are not jeopardizing the tax-exempt status.
Employment Law Issues
Churches are employers that are subject to federal and state laws. They cannot discriminate against employees. There is a fine line that the church must walk in its hiring practices. Then, the church may need a lawyer to help negotiate the terms of a contract.
The church must follow the same laws when employing people. There are times when a church must terminate a key employee. The church must make sure that it is not in breach of contract. It may need to negotiate a separation agreement.
Governance and Bylaws
Every religious institution is required to have a set of bylaws that govern how it is to be run. First, an attorney can help a church draft or amend bylaws when necessary. Bylaws can be very technical, but they must always be followed and appropriately drafted.
The church may also need legal assistance in governance issues to ensure they follow their bylaws. Any action that the church takes could be nullified if it was taken in contravention of the bylaws and other documents.
Contact Our Virginia Beach Church Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC
Our Virginia Beach church lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC help religious institutions with their legal needs. Call us at 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg, and Eastern Shore, Virginia.