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.
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.
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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.
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National Insurance Awareness Day falls on June 28 this year to remind people everywhere that insurance is vital to their companies and ministries.
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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.
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.
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For the first time in its 13 years of influenza monitoring, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that every state in the continental U.S. is seeing widespread flu activity. Get tips on how to keep your congregation healthy this flu season.
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Has your church or school ever been asked to loan one of your vans or buses to another? Before you decide to loan your ministry vehicles to another organization, seriously consider the potential risks associated with such a decision.
Completing a personal property inventory of your church or ministry could be one of the wisest activities you can pursue. If disaster strikes and you file an insurance claim, you may need an inventory highlighting damaged items.
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Small businesses—including churches and related ministries—can once again pay premiums for their employees’ health insurance. Previously known as an Employer Payment Plan (EPP) or Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), these arrangements violated the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, due to a recently passed law, ministries that are not part of a group health plan now have another option to help employees with health care costs.
Ministries beware: An email scheme, designed to coincide with tax season, asks payroll and human resource professionals to disclose employees’ personal information. Think you wouldn’t fall for such a scam? You might, if the email looks as if it came from someone in your ministry.
Under federal law, most ministers have dual tax status. Dual tax status means a minister is an employee of the church for federal income tax purposes, and self-employed for Social Security and Medicare taxes. Here’s what you need to know.