Separation of Church and State

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by Testimony, Jan 8, 2003.

  1. Testimony

    Testimony
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    I have a question and hope someone can answer it...If the church has a set of by-laws that have been "filed" or "registered" with the state, does that pastor have a right to "override" the articles of the by-laws?
     
  2. Refreshed

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    If the church is a 501-C3 organization (Non-profit), it is a corporation. Then no, the pastor does not have the right to override. The pastor is required by the state to follow the articles of the bylaws or get them changed through a meeting of the share holders who are usually the members (or however else it is stated in the bylaws). This vote is then registered with the governing body over corporations in a given state and the bylaws are changed.

    Jason :D

    [ January 08, 2003, 12:12 AM: Message edited by: Refreshed ]
     
  3. Testimony

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    If the by-laws state that new officers have to be nominated and voted in rather than appointed....which should we observe as correct? And by the way, the church is corporated! :confused:
     
  4. Refreshed

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    Unfortunately, you are bound to the by-laws. Your tax-exempt status could be revoked, and the church would resort to an unincorporated association (kind of like O'Doul's, all of the flavor, none of the fun tax-wise).
     
  5. Refreshed

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    I might also note that when the church was incorporated, an agreement was made to abide by the laws of the state. There is a dishonor in vowing a vow and not keeping it. It's better to never vow a vow.
     
  6. Dr. Bob

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    In the USA a 501-c3 organization must have bylaws in which a board of directors have all authority.

    Most churches (if following the law) have their regular church board serve as this "board of directors". This "board" can then vote to give all decision-making power to the congregation (as good baptists are congregational in polity).

    So, it that "board" gave authority to the Pastor (as some churches certainly do) THEN the Pastor is within the law to do ANYTHING - including selling the church building!

    Sad but true. In most cases, though, this is a good safeguard to have a Board of Directors. It negates the old "trustee" system where men could actually be held responsible for church debts, etc.

    This was the church becomes a "corporate identity" and no individual can be sued, forced to pay, etc.
     
  7. Refreshed

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    Only if the board has the voting powers. In many if not most churches, it is the members. In all corporation bylaws, there is a method to change the by-laws and instrumentation is in place for voting in new officers. The board cannot give permission beyond what is in the bylaws for appointment of corporate officers.
     
  8. Testimony

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    So bottom line is....we must go by the bylaws unless we vote the give the pastor ALL POWER [​IMG]

    Would the board have to give the Pastor something in writing giving him the authority and if so, would it then have to be taken back to the church for a vote?
     
  9. Testimony

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    Now the question of church and state comes in....if the bylaws are not followed, could a member go to some state agendy and complain that we have "broken" the bylaws?
     
  10. Refreshed

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    I'm not sure what the law is in your state for breaking procedure, but a member could certainly complain to your corporation commission (that's what it is called here in Arizona). I don't know if it would go anywhere though. The state's position is this; you agreed to incorporate your church (or whoever), so it is voluntarily under our corporate law. That would be a good place to start is looking under corporate law.

    [ January 08, 2003, 02:15 PM: Message edited by: Refreshed ]
     
  11. fromtheright

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    Dr. Bob/Refreshed,

    This is an interesting question I had never considered from a church-state perspective. But it also brings up the question of different church organizations. I don't know that much about the differing forms but I know that denominations/religions have various forms of church government, some more hierarchical than others. How do the 501-C3 rules affect those organizations? If there is a conflict between them, it would then seem to raise some serious church-state issues if church government is a matter of doctrine for those organizations, taking into account the "power to tax is the power to destroy" legal defense of tax exemption for churches.

    [ January 08, 2003, 09:43 PM: Message edited by: fromtheright ]
     
  12. Refreshed

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    FTR,

    From the perspective of the IRS, it isn't a difficult issue at all. If a church agrees to abide by the corporation law of the state in which it resides and if it takes a tax exempt status from the feds (where the 501-C3 comes in), the IRS will do what it has to in order to protect its interest in the relationship, including revocation of tax-exempt status and/or audits.

    Jason
     
  13. Bartimaeus

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    Thank you Jason, you are exactly right. To the IRS it is not difficult at all. All we do is sign right up and then we are as you say to follow the "corporation law of the state". It is interesting to find out that corporate law and constitutional law are two different systems of law. It is interesting also that you use the word "relationship" in regard to the IRS and the church.
    The only "relationship" the church (bride) is to have is with her Groom. Isn't the word normally used for an unholy or unchaste "relationship" .... fornication?

    --------Bart
     
  14. Hardsheller

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    Most Church Constitutions and Bylaws are so out of kilter with State Law for Non-Profit Religious Organizations that it would take 3 lawyers a week to straighten it all out.

    When the State Law mentions Officer for example they're not talking about your Sunday School Director which many Church Constitutions and Bylaws call an officer. They're talking about the Corporation President, the Vice-President, The Treasurer and the Secretary.

    It would do every incorporated church a lot of good to go through their church constitution and bylaws and make sure the language in those documents matches that of the State Code or else should you ever find yourself in Court you will be embarassed as you try to explain all your "church terminology". By the way, it's also a good way to alienate a busy judge!
     
  15. Testimony

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    My concern again is that some member who is the least bit savvy will "protest" to the corporate commission and we find ourselves in a big mess.
     
  16. Refreshed

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    You need to talk to your pastor about it. If he doesn't listen, take a few men that are trustworthy in with you to talk to the pastor. If he still doesn't listen, you and the other men bring it before the church. It is the biblical way. It sounds like he wants to simply put a band-aid on your bleeding budget by dumping more money into the general fund when in all actuality it is his salary that is putting the squeeze on the church. But do remember that a laborer is worthy of his hire.

    Jason :D
     
  17. Hardsheller

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    The state will not normally involve itself in the internal affairs of a church unless criminal law has been broken.

    Normally the only way a violation of the constitution and bylaws will gain a hearing is through a lawsuit.
     
  18. Refreshed

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    Good point, Hardsheller.
     
  19. Testimony

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    Refreshed, et al - As not only a hearer but a doer of the Gospel, I heartily support the laborer being worthy of the hire, however, neither my beloved pastor or any assistant ministers even visit the sick and in addition to that he WILL NOT meet with us. As I stated before, our congregation is less than 100 people, of that number, we have 4 ordained deacons; 2 who are afraid to rock the boat and stand up for right, 1 whom the pastor pretends does not exist and me. :rolleyes:
     

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