church law

Nine-member Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Missouri playground case

By John Litzler

Today (April 19), the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is hearing oral arguments in one of the most important religious liberty cases of the last few decades. SCOTUS, which only had an eight-member court since Justice Antonin Scalia passed away last February, has a full bench for the first time in over a year. In January, President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. On April 7, Justice Gorsuch was confirmed just in time to begin hearing cases on April 17. This term will end in late June or early July when the Court recesses for the summer before its new term begins... [continue]

Texas Supreme Court tells Houston that citizens have the right to vote

The Texas Supreme Court has ordered the Houston City Council to either repeal its Houston Equal Rights Ordinance by Aug. 24 or put the ordinance to a vote during the city's November election. HERO amended Houston's Code of Ordinances to prevent all residents of Houston from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Court stated that, "though the ordinance is steeped in controversy, the legal principles at play are relatively simple."

The Houston City Council passed HERO on May 28, 2014. Houstonians have the right to dispute any ordinance filed by the Houston City Council by submitting a referendum... [continue]

What the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling means for Texas churches

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that state bans on same-sex marriage violate the 14th amendment. The decision, written by Justice Kennedy, reflects a remarkable reversal in public acceptance of same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is now legal in Texas. Texas must also recognize the validity of marriages performed in other states. The decision has had an immediate effect as some county clerk's offices are already reporting they are open and ready to provide same-sex marriage licenses.

While some celebrate the decision as a victory for equality, many churches have expressed concern about how the legalization of same-sex... [continue]

Child abuse is everyone's business

Country singer Kacey Musgraves' single, "Biscuits," is gaining popularity. The message of the song can be summed up in the line that advises, "Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy." It's a catchy and clever restatement of the familiar idiom, "mind your own business."

In today's society, we've heard so many variations of this phrase that many people behave as though nothing that goes on in other people's lives is anyone else's business. When it comes to child abuse and neglect, the adage simply doesn't apply. Christians should be at the forefront in reminding society that child abuse and neglect are everyone's... [continue]

Legislature says “I Do” to Pastor Protection Act

On June 11, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the so-called Pastor Protection Act that protects religious organizations and their employees from performing or participating in marriages that conflict with "sincerely held religious beliefs." The Christian Life Commission and its director of public policy, Kathryn Freeman, worked with faith leaders throughout Texas during the 2015 legislative session to get this bill passed.

The law will be added to Section 1, Chapter 2 of the Texas Family Code and will take effect Sept.1, 2015. The bill is timely because it comes ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage later in... [continue]

Prepare your church for same-sex marriage ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court is ready to consider the issue of same-sex marriage, and the court's eventual ruling could affect how the State of Texas defines marriage. If change occurs, it will affect the relationship of all Texas Baptist churches in their dealings with local, state, and federal laws.

The Christian Life Commission supports the biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman for a lifetime commitment. This has been the marriage standard for Christians dating back two millennia, and reflects an even longer biblical heritage.

On Tuesday, April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider cases from... [continue]

Guns in the Pews? Churches have the right to choose

Beginning January 1, 2016, Texans with a handgun license will be allowed to openly carry their handguns. Churches in Texas may prevent handgun license holders from carrying handguns inside church buildings as long as the church gives proper notice. Each church may decide for itself whether to allow:

  1. Both open and concealed carry of handguns
  2. Concealed carry of handguns but not open carry
  3. Open carry of handguns and not concealed carry
  4. No handguns regardless of whether they are carried openly or concealed

A church does not need to take any action if it wishes to allow handgun license holders to conceal carry or open carry in church... [continue]

Good Legal Stewards

Once my wife and I were engaged we decided to attend premarital counseling. Years later, my misconceptions about counseling are still prevalent in society. I viewed counseling as unnecessary for healthy relationships. Inaccurate images from television and movies caused me to believe I should only attend counseling if there was a problem. I could not have been more mistaken. My then fiancé and I had a wonderful relationship, but I was unaware of how little I knew about how to protect our relationship and keep it flourishing. Through premarital counseling, I was encouraged to think about aspects of our relationship I had never... [continue]

Child Safety Policy Manual

Having a Child Safety Policy Manual can be one of the most important steps a church can take in helping to protect its children and prevent liability. Here are a few of the major things to think about when creating a Child Safety Policy Manual:

  1. First, we recommend that you create a team or committee of highly qualified members from multiple professions (e.g. law, police, education, counseling, medicine, etc.) to craft a Child Safety Policy. These professionals will bring a wealth of knowledge from many different angles that will be crucial in setting forth a working Child Safety Policy.
  2. Second, look at what other churches,
... [continue]

Major problems churches make when drafting Bylaws

Recently, we have had the opportunity to review several churches' Bylaws and Governing Documents for legal sufficiency. This is an important, but often overlooked area in many churches. So let's look at a few of the problem areas that I see for churches when dealing with their Bylaws and Governing Documents:

  • First, in many situations the original Articles of Incorporation/Certificate of Formation may have been filed many decades ago and may not conform to the present realities of the church's situation. One that I just looked at had been filed in the 1950s, and stated that the church would have a term of 50 years. Fortunately,
... [continue]

Why does my church need bylaws?

Few pastors want to spend their time on such seemingly mundane things as bylaws and church governance. Most pastors would, instead, rather being doing the ministry activities to which they feel most called: visiting with families, praying with hurting people, preparing sermons, and mobilizing volunteers.

But when trouble strikes, the first thing many pastors think is: "I wish I had spent time drafting some better bylaws for our church!" Why? Because bylaws help lay the framework for what happens in the church--both during good times and bad.

A good way to think about this is that bylaws are somewhat like the rules... [continue]