By: Makinzie Loeffler
What is your church committed to doing in 2020? Whatever direction your church is heading, this is the time you might be planning your next steps.
You may be looking to start a new ministry, expand your outreach programs, plant a church, announce new policies, review and update existing policies, or open your church facilities for community events. Any of these actions could have religious freedom implications, so for your next step, you may consider this question: “Is my church legally prepared for the next phase of ministry?”
Being legally prepared is essential in today’s divisive culture. Churches across the country are experiencing legal threats, and it’s time for your church to take proactive steps to protect its religious freedom.
Here are two ways to protect your church in 2020:
- Consult an Attorney
Consult a religious liberty attorney who is well-versed in how the law can impact your church’s 2020 goals and activities. Although you may know your church has considerable rights under the law, they may be different than you think. And if you don’t know what your church’s religious liberty rights are, you might want to learn more about them.
You might be curious if your church is up to date on the latest changes in the law affecting religious freedom. Are you aware of changes in employment regulations or the ways sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws can impact your ministry? How might your tax-exempt status be impacted by a new opportunity?
Consulting with a First Amendment attorney can help you understand the law and avoid legal pitfalls. These pitfalls can distract you from ministry, cause unnecessary stress and delays, drain financial resources, and more.
Consult with an attorney to get the information you need and have peace of mind.
- Review Your Church’s Governing Documents
Your church’s governing documents are critical. Not only do they guide your church’s general operations and provide boundaries for your congregation, volunteers, and employees—they also have a big impact on your religious freedom.
Courts will very likely reference your governing documents if your church is ever involved in a legal dispute. This is one reason that clearly and consistently communicating your church’s beliefs in your documents (bylaws, constitution, facility use policy, employee handbook, etc.) is so important.
The start of the year is a great time for a First Amendment attorney to review your governing documents and policies to identify and correct areas of legal risk.
You may be unsure of who to turn to for legal counsel or maybe you’re wondering how legal fees will affect your church’s bottom line. That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom, the world’s largest religious freedom legal organization, created an affordable legal membership program for churches:
The program acts as a hub for churches to gain access to experienced First Amendment lawyers who are available to answer religious liberty questions, conduct document reviews and provide advice, and even represent your church in court if necessary and appropriate – it’s virtually all-inclusive for religious freedom issues.
This year, allow the team to help carry the religious liberty legal burden of your church. They will help prepare and protect the First Amendment freedoms of your church so you can freely preach and operate your church in accordance with your beliefs. You’ll have a legal resource and advocate ready to support your church and its 2020 goals.
State Convention of Baptists in Indiana has partnered with ADF Church Alliance. Through this partnership, your church gets a 20% discount on membership. Use promo code SCBI20 when you apply.