3 Surprising Reasons a Church Might Face Legal Issues

church legal issues

Of all places, one might think a church would be relatively safe from legal issues.  But unfortunately, a place of worship is not immune from lawsuits or other legal concerns.  Abuse claims are the number one reason for litigation against a church, but there other less common types of legal claims they need to be aware of. Here are a few that can definitely require the help of an attorney to settle.

Personal injury

Accidents and injuries can happen anywhere, even at church or a church-sponsored event.  Wet or uneven floors, unstable steps, lack of safety railings, or snow and ice can all be safety hazards that can lead to a damaging fall, especially by older members of a congregation.  Even injuries that don’t occur on their property, such as an accident in a vehicle driven by a church employee for an official function, can present liability issues.

Misuse of church funds

In a church environment, the opportunity exists for misappropriation of funds, which can lead to legal issues. There have been many cases of embezzlement by church treasurers, for example, which is a very serious crime with serious penalties. Other issues could arise from improperly executed fundraising methods that can risk a church’s tax exemption status.  A good attorney will work with church leaders to establish clear internal processes to safeguard funds. Additionally, they can review the legality of new fundraising options to ensure compliance with applicable tax laws.

Defamation of character

A pastor is an important spiritual and emotional leader of their church and their reputation is vital for maintaining its integrity. If another person or organization slanders a pastor’s good name, it can lead to a breakdown of trust which can affect congregation opinions and attendance, as well as cause serious emotional distress. False statements made with the intent of defaming the character of a religious leader can cause substantial harm to the church’s operations, and therefore legal action may be necessary to repair the damage.

It is important for church leaders to understand that their place of worship is subject to the same legal risks as any other business. In addition to the previously mentioned concerns, an experienced attorney is essential in helping to navigate legal issues regarding employment laws, tax concerns, property disputes, insurance claims and more.  At Churchill, Quinn, Hamilton & Van Donselaar, Ltd, we have proven experience successfully representing clients involving church and ecclesiastical matters.  Our attorneys understand the needs of our faith-based clients and are committed to supporting their organizations with the highest standards and integrity.  Contact us at 847-223-1500 to schedule a consultation in our Grayslake office.