Civil law

Understanding The Law For Members Of The Church: A Super Quick Guide

You might think that the law and the church are two separate entities. Well, if you happen to work in a religious capacity, you need to make sure that you understand how the law impacts your position. Just like other businesses, churches have to abide by certain rules when it comes to day to day running. People who work within the church and fail to take note of the law leave themselves open to a great many problems. It is always important to try and understand how the law of the church works so that you can use it. Here is a super quick guide to get you started.

law for church

Business law

Many people tend to forget that the church is a business. If your church employs paid members of staff, you need to make sure that everything is by the books. Churches are not above the law; people always need to abide by governing legislation. People who work within the church should get the same employment rights as any other workers. These rights include the right to fair pay, the right to a safe working environment and the right to a fair dismissal. If the management breaks these rules, they are breaking the law and could face legal issues later.

Tax exemption

People who work in the church get a special level of tax relief that the rest of America does not get. According to the law, people who work in a religious capacity don’t have to pay as much tax as everyone else. If you happen to work for the church, that means that you can apply to get tax relief. You will need to complete a 501(c)(3) federal income tax exemption form and send it to the IRS. If you find the process confusing, you will need to contact a lawyer to help you.

Pastor Succession

When a pastor steps down from his position or dies, you need to replace him. Few people realize that swearing in a pastor to the church is a legal act. There are many laws that govern the sacred position of pastor. It is important that the person who undertakes the role understands what he has to do to fulfill it. When the time comes to replace a pastor, you need to make sure that you take proper legal action. Taking the right steps will make the transitional period easier for everyone involved.

Reviewing the law

If you are not sure whether your church meets the US legal standards, it might be worth having a lawyer review your legal situation. There is a lot to understand when it comes to how the law impacts the church. You need to know whether your accounts are up to date and whether your church meets certain safety requirements. Every year or two, it is worth having a specialist lawyer review your case so that the law doesn’t catch you out.

Church names and trademarks

Sometimes, you might need to change the name of your church. Remember, different state rules govern different areas. You will need to check what your state guidelines are. You can legally change the name of your church at any time as long as your committee agrees with the decision. If you want your church name to become a federal trademark, you will need to undergo a lengthy process. Trademarking your church means that nobody else can use your name in anything promotional. That will protect you from external bodies using your name for their promotions.

Image via Dennis Jarvis