Tag: courts

The high costs of an abuse claim: Five guidelines to help churches of all sizes

The high costs of an abuse claim: Five guidelines to help churches of all sizes

Prevention, right coverage are critical to protecting churches.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Church Finance Today

Sexual abuse of a minor is the number one reason churches end up in court. It’s a statistic that’s been true for a number of years, according to attorney Richard R. Hammar. And churches must do all they can to prevent this type of tragedy. But churches also must be wise and purchase the right kind of insurance that will help cover any legal action that might occur because of abuse or alleged abuse on their property or during church-related events, trips, or activities.

Based on interviews with church insurance experts, attorneys, and a risk management specialist, Church Finance Today offers five guidelines to help churches of all sizes make sure they are financially prepared should the unthinkable ever happen.

  1. Don’t assume your general liability policy covers abuse claims. It usually does not.

“Some churches may not be aware that their typical church liability coverage doesn’t cover sexual abuse or misconduct,” said Eric Spacek, risk management and loss control director for GuideOne Insurance.

Read the full story.

Sidebar: Interview with attorney Richard J. Mathews.

This article appears on the August 2017 cover of Church Finance Today, a publication of Christianity Today.

As major cities crack down on panhandling, many wrestle with their consciences

As major cities crack down on panhandling, many wrestle with their consciences

In a number of cities, the ordinances are sparking legal battles with civil liberties advocates, who accuse communities of treating the homeless as ‘human blight.’

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service

OKLAHOMA CITY (RNS) Driving to his downtown clothing business, Hans Herman Thun finds it impossible to ignore the beggars.

They catch his attention with handwritten, cardboard signs such as “Homeless and hungry,” “Anything helps! God bless” and even “I’ll be honest — I could really use a beer.”

Thun, a self-described born-again Christian, works as a tailor for prominent customers such as University of Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops.

The owner of Hans Herman Custom Tailors said he does his best to help those in need.

“If I’ve got money, and it’s easy for me to get over and give them money, I do,” Thun said. “What the Lord taught me is, I have a responsibility to give. What they choose to do with the money is between them and the Lord, and he can work with them in regards to stewardship.”

But in Oklahoma City and major cities across the nation, elected officials increasingly are passing ordinances that crack down on panhandling.

Typically, these ordinances make it a crime to approach vehicles or stand on medians at busy intersections. Supporters tout the ordinances as safety measures designed to protect the public as well as those seeking food or money.

In a number of cities, however, the ordinances are sparking legal battles with civil liberties advocates, who accuse communities of violating free speech rights and treating the homeless as “human blight.” In one week in May, opponents filed lawsuits challenging anti-panhandling laws in Houston; Pensacola, Fla; and the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy.

In this Bible Belt state capital, the American Civil Liberties Union and Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma are suing over a so-called “median safety ordinance.” The law, which took effect last year, “attempts to criminalize everything from panhandling to political speech and even neighbors talking to one another or walking their dogs in the grass,” said attorney Brady Henderson, the ACLU of Oklahoma’s legal director.

Read the full story.

Among major papers that picked up this story: USA Today, the Houston Chronicle and the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Religion News Service is a national wire service with more than 100 secular and religious media subscribers, including USA Today, the Washington Post and NPR.

Bible Belt state with nation’s highest execution rate considers death penalty flaws

Bible Belt state with nation’s highest execution rate considers death penalty flaws

The Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission recommends that the moratorium on the death penalty be extended.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service

OKLAHOMA CITY (RNS) Most Oklahomans believe the devil is real.

State Rep. Mike Ritze thinks that’s why they overwhelmingly support capital punishment, despite highly publicized problems with lethal-injection drugs that prompted state officials to put a temporary moratorium on executions in 2015.

“Because of our faith-based population, we believe there is evil in the world,” said Ritze, a Southern Baptist deacon who co-authored a pro-death-penalty measure supported by 66 percent of voters in the November general election.

“We believe in a devil, and we believe in a God,” the Republican lawmaker said. “As a result, I think Oklahomans are very supportive of the death penalty.”

But last week — just as neighboring Arkansas finished executing four death-row inmates in eight days before one of its lethal-injection drugs expired — the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission recommended that the moratorium be extended.

The commission cited “the volume and the seriousness of the flaws” in the state’s capital punishment system. The bipartisan group of Oklahoma leaders, organized by the Washington, D.C.-based Constitution Project, made 46 recommendations to revamp the process.

“Many of the findings of the commission’s year-long investigation were disturbing and led commission members to question whether the death penalty can be administered in a way that ensures no innocent person is put to death,” according to the in-depth report.

Read the full story.

Religion News Service is a national wire service with more than 100 secular and religious media subscribers, including USA Today, the Washington Post and NPR.

A baptism, then a murder confession

A baptism, then a murder confession

Texas woman gave her life to Christ, owned up to a slaying — and got a life sentence.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

GATESVILLE, Texas — Lucinda Wilson might have gotten away with murder.

Except that she became a Christian and confessed to her crime.

Now 48, Wilson has served 20-plus years of a life sentence for the capital murder of her ex-fiancé’s girlfriend, Margaret Morales.

Behind bars, the former U.S. Navy servicewoman has worked hard to remain faithful and share the Gospel with other inmates, she said in an interview at the Dr. Lane Murray Unit, a maximum-security women’s prison 40 miles west of Waco.

Wilson won’t be eligible for parole until July 25, 2036 — when she would be 67.

“When I compare it to eternity, it’s really not that long at all,” she said, speaking into a telephone on the other side of a glass partition.

As Wilson visited with The Christian Chronicle, one Texas Department of Criminal Justice guard stood watch. Another guard held a phone to her own ear as she monitored the conversation.

“I don’t deserve to have a second chance really,” said Wilson, an ordinary-looking woman — except for her white prison jumpsuit — with long, brown hair pulled behind her head.

“I just want to try and do as much as I can to bring the Lord the glory he deserves because it’s not about me,” she added. “It’s about what we can do for him and how many souls we can lead to him as well.”

Read the full story.

This story appears in the May 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Why a Georgia church elder is making news at U.S. Supreme Court

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Why a Georgia church elder is making news at U.S. Supreme Court (reporting from Rome, Ga.): In a death-row murder case, all the potential black jurors — including Eddie Hood — were excluded. 

ROME, Ga. — Eddie Hood chuckles when discussing his newfound celebrity status.

Hood, 75, serves as an elder for the 125-member Callahan Street Church of Christ in this northwest Georgia city of 36,000.

He worked for a paper mill for 33 years, but now he’s enjoying retirement.

“Working in the Lord’s church,” the grandfather of eight said of how he spends his time.

I showed up at Hood’s house — painted bright yellow with a U.S. flag flying by the front door — after seeing his name in national news reports.

Hood, it turns out, was as surprised as anybody when he ended up in arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some background: In 1987, Hood was a potential juror for a capital murder case in which Timothy Tyrone Foster, an 18-year-old black man, was charged with killing Queen Madge White, a 79-year-old white woman.

However, prosecutors used challenges to remove all four prospective black jurors — including Hood.

This column appears in the December 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Same-sex marriage legalized — now what?

Same-sex marriage legalized — now what?

Landmark ruling alarms Christians who view marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

“If Caesar gives it, he can take it away.”

So warns minister and lawyer Melvin Otey in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 5-4 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Despite declarations of support for religious freedom by President Barack Obama and the high court’s majority, Christians “definitely should be concerned,” Otey said.

“I believe churches and Christian institutions will be significantly affected by the larger movement that has ushered in the acceptance of same-sex unions,” said the former U.S. Justice Department attorney, now an associate professor of law at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala.

“It is at least possible that churches and organizations that speak against homosexuality, for example, will lose their tax-exempt status because the exemption is a benefit bestowed by the government,” added Otey, who preached for the Georgia Avenue Church of Christ in Washington, D.C., for eight years.

For members of Churches of Christ — most of whom believe God ordained marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman — the ruling has sparked myriad questions and concerns:

Read the full story.

This story appears in the August 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Will Supreme Court pop abortion clinic bubbles?

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Will the Supreme Court pop abortion clinic bubbles?: A challenge to ‘buffer zones’ against anti-abortion protesters gets a surprise hearing Jan. 15. 

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly allowed “buffer zones” that keep abortion protesters from approaching medical facility entrances. So the court surprised many observers when it agreed to hear a challenge to a Massachusetts “buffer zone” law on Jan. 15.

Mark Rienzi, lead counsel for the pro-life plaintiffs, argues that the state’s 2007 law creating a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics and other health-care facilities exceeds the high court’s ruling.

In its 2000 decision Hill v. Colorado, the Supreme Court upheld Colorado’s so-called “bubble law” by a 6-to-3 vote. The law established a 100-foot zone in front of medical facilities and prohibited protesters from walking within an “8-foot bubble” of people.

“The Court allowed the restriction because the law had several key safeguards, all of which have been eliminated by the Massachusetts law,” said Rienzi, a Catholic University of America law professor.

He declared the Massachusetts law “inescapably viewpoint-based” — and thus a violation of free speech — because it applies “only when and where abortion is allowed.” It also lets staff promote abortion to potential patients in the buffer zone.

“These [laws] are being passed for one purpose: to shut down the speech of one opinion, which should be enough for the Supreme Court to reject them,” said Brian Gibson, executive director of Pro-Life Action Ministries.

But in upholding the Massachusetts law a year ago, an appeals court disagreed, saying the free speech protections were similar to those in Hill.

This story appears in the January/February print issue of Christianity Today.