September 7, 2016
Issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws have received a great deal of media and government attention since the 2015 Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. As a result, many ministry leaders have questions about what the law requires and how they can accommodate LGBTQ* individuals without compromising their religious beliefs.
What Does the Law Say?
Federal law protects the civil rights of certain employees. Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts does not specifically recognize LGBTQ individuals as protected classes. In recent years, however, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has interpreted Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination as forbidding employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.1
Although individual state and local laws differ, sometimes significantly, about 20 states and more than 200 cities and counties have adopted SOGI-related non-discrimination laws covering employment, housing, and/or public accommodation.2
How Do Organizations Uphold their Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs?
Federal and state laws generally uphold the rights of religious organizations to make decisions consistent with their religious beliefs. Many laws addressing sexual orientation and gender identity exempt religious institutions. Even when state and local laws are silent on SOGI issues, ministries still may be able to rely upon the U. S. Constitution’s first amendment to protect their right to operate in harmony with their beliefs.
Ministries can protect themselves from claims of discrimination by clearly communicating their religious beliefs. Ministry leaders should ensure that anyone who represents their ministry—pastors, counselors, and other ministry leaders—understand the organization’s core beliefs and are able to express them correctly and consistently.
Leaders should advise all individuals who seek to use ministry facilities why the ministry exists and its core beliefs. Document ministry beliefs within foundational and operational documents—membership applications, employee handbooks, activity participation agreements, facility use agreements, and other relevant organizational policies.
Consider Buying Religious Freedom Protection Insurance
Insurance coverage is available from some insurance providers. Not all coverage is equal, however, even among those insurers that specialize in ministry-related insurance. Avoiding every potential claim or lawsuit that may result from belief-based decisions and practices is impossible, but ministries should carefully consider the issues and take steps to avoid or lessen potential claims whenever possible.
*LGBTQ is an acronym for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (and/or Questioning individuals/identities). The term originated in the 1990s.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Though child abuse may not be something you could ever imagine happening within your ministry, sexual abuse of a minor is one of the top five reasons churches end up in court, according to Church Law & Tax. Studies also show that a child is much more likely to be sexually abused by a trusted adult than a stranger.
When severe storms strike, they can produce high winds and tornadoes. Damaging winds can wreak havoc on your ministry’s property and to buildings. A high wind event can crash debris through your windows, strip your siding, down trees on your parking lot, peel shingles off your roof, and fling back the flashing.
Thieves are taking advantage of soaring precious metal prices. Take steps to protect your ministry’s vehicles and property.
As temperatures plummet, the risk of freezing pipes soars. Frozen pipes can cause costly messes that could also put your ministry on hold while you clean up.
Preparing for this Christmas season may require additional creativity, due to the uncertainty of what COVID-19 may bring in our local community.
A mid-November deadline in the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) bankruptcy proceedings may have you wondering what the organization’s bankruptcy filing means for your ministry if you ever hosted or chartered Boy Scout Troops.
Organizations that obtained Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding through the CARES Act can have their loans forgiven, turning them into grants. To qualify, each borrower must file a forgiveness application with its PPP lender, proving that it followed the rules. If your church, school, college, or camp meets all the criteria, 100% of its loan can be forgiven.
Learn about the CARES Act and two loans for which ministries may be eligible, since Congress authorized additional funding April 23.
As concern over the dangers associated with the spread of a new coronavirus, COVID-19, spreads, our agency and Brotherhood Mutual want to keep you informed and provide best practices for managing the spread of this and similar illnesses at your ministry.
The first Sunday in February is a big day for sports fans. In fact, many Americans view Super Bowl Sunday as a national holiday. Friends and families will gather this year to watch the big game, enjoy delicious snacks, and of course, critique the commercials that go along with game day.
Recently, we learned about two major overseas incidents involving pastors on mission trips. The first incident involved a pastor being hit by a motorcycle while running. The second was a bus accident involving two pastors. The runner and one of the two bus passengers sustained extensive injuries.
Last month, the IRS announced that its initiating hundreds of church exams to test compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While many provisions only apply to churches with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), even smaller churches could potentially violate provisions applicable to health benefit plans with as few as 2 plan participants.
July 4th is synonymous with food, fun, and fireworks. If your church is planning an event this Independence Day, remember to keep a focus on safety, so that everyone can have fun.
National Insurance Awareness Day falls on June 28 this year to remind people everywhere that insurance is vital to their companies and ministries.
According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), hail causes about $1 billion in damage to crops and property each year. Prepare your ministry and people for hail this season.
More than 700 confirmed cases of measles have been reported in the United States so far this year, making this outbreak the worst in decades.
Do you use commercial vehicles that transport more than 15 passengers or carry cargo from one state to another as part of your ministry? If so, you are required to register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and obtain a USDOT number.
As winter turns to spring, we’re also in for a turn in weather. Lightning, strong winds, flash flooding, hail, or tornadoes could quickly strike your ministry. The National Weather Service has designated March 25-29, 2019, as Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Iowa and Nebraska.
The National Safety Council has designated June as National Safety Month, so we want to make sure your ministry is doing everything it can to protect its people, property, and programs. Each week in June, we’ll tackle a different topic. Up this week: Emergency Preparedness.
There’s a new scam in town, and ministries and other organizations collecting donations are the primary target. If your ministry collects tithes or donations, you could be targeted by scammers practicing donation overpayment fraud.