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3 Legal Strategies to Decrease Your Liability

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Kyle Winey, Esq. I. The Need for Liability Limitation We live in a highly litigious culture. Businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations are increasingly exposed to legal liability. For example, businesses increasingly fear the vitriol of litigious patrons—and for good reason. That’s why all businesses, nonprofits, and churches should take significant measures to protect… Read More »

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West Virginia’s Complicated Relationship with Church Incorporation

By Simms Showers LLP |

By H. Robert Showers, Esq. and Justin R. Coleman, Esq. West Virginia’s current Constitution prohibits the State from allowing any church under its authority to incorporate, making it the last state not to allow church incorporation. Article VI, Section 47 of the West Virginia Constitution explicitly states: “No charter of incorporation shall be granted… Read More »

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Church Third Party Uses: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You!

By Simms Showers LLP |

Renting or allowing use of church and ministry facilities has many new added risks: child abuse liability, unwanted use purposes (same sex marriages) or activities on premises (illegal or risky), liability that is not covered by insurance or renters’ indemnity, jeopardizing tax exempt status of property, entity or UBIT and getting dragged into court… Read More »

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Virtual Currency Gifts: Should Churches and Nonprofits Accept Bitcoin?

By Simms Showers LLP |

Virtual Currency Gifts: Should Churches and Nonprofits Accept Bitcoin? By William R. Thetford, Esq. and H. Robert Showers, Esq. Updated July 14, 2021 Preface Excitement rides high on the cryptocurrency wave these days. Even on the wave, though, one must be wary of the height. For churches and nonprofits, that height might be too… Read More »

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Reopening

Amidst Anticipated Relief, Big Questions Remain for COVID Vaccines, Masking Requirements, and Risk Management

By Simms Showers LLP |

Amidst Anticipated Relief, Big Questions Remain for COVID Vaccines, Masking Requirements, and Risk Management By William R. Thetford, Esq. and H. Robert Showers, Esq. May 28, 2021 The day many Americans began dreaming of in March 2020 is arriving as states end executive orders limiting gatherings, masks (at least for those who are vaccinated),… Read More »

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Equality Act

What You Need to Know About H.R. 5 (“The Equality Act”)

By Simms Showers LLP |

What You Need to Know About H.R. 5 (“The Equality Act”) By H. Robert Showers, Esq. and William R. Thetford, Esq.  April 27, 2021 In the wake of the new administration, Congress has taken up H.R. 5, entitled the Equality Act by its supporters. Evangelical Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Jewish groups, as well as… Read More »

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PPP 2.0: What your Organization Needs to Know About the Second Draw of the PPP

By Simms Showers LLP |

PPP 2.0: What your Organization Needs to Know About the Second Draw of the PPP By H. Robert Showers, Esq. and William R. Thetford, Esq.  January 19, 2020 While many organizations await final forgiveness of their initial Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, Congress recently approved an expansion of the PPP, the Consolidated Appropriations Act… Read More »

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PPP Recipient Information Released by the SBA: What you Need to Know about What People Know About Your PPP Loan

By Simms Showers LLP |

PPP Recipient Information Released by the SBA: What you Need to Know About What People Know About Your PPP Loan By H. Robert Showers, Esq. and William R. Thetford, Esq.  Last Updated: December 14, 2020 Back in July, the United States Small Business Administration (the SBA) released some information on the recipients of its… Read More »

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Stay At Home Orders

Legal Alert: Governors Amended Executive Orders Affect Churches, Businesses, and Individuals

By Simms Showers LLP |

Legal Alert: Governors Amended Executive Orders Affect Churches, Businesses, and Individuals By William R. Thetford, Esq. and H. Robert Showers, Esq. Last Updated: November 20, 2020 The unprecedented series of health concerns, outbreaks, closures, restrictions, and lockdowns this year has been a recurring frustration for individuals, businesses, and churches. With the cooler weather, many… Read More »

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Legal Alert: Lawsuit Filed Challenging the Virginia Values Act

By Simms Showers LLP |

Simms Showers attorneys H. Robert Showers and William R. Thetford as local counsel, allied with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed a suit challenging the controversial Virginia Values Act in Virginia courts last week. As we wrote previously, Virginia law underwent an unprecedented shift during this year’s legislative session. One of the key changes… Read More »

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New Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law in Virginia: Ramifications for Religious Employers and Others

By Simms Showers LLP |

New Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law in Virginia: Ramifications for Religious Employers and Others By William R. Thetford, Esq. and H. Robert Showers, Esq. Last Updated: August 25, 2020 The legislative session of 2020 has radically transformed the legal climate of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This article analyzes the controversial Virginia Values Act… Read More »

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Discrimination

Liability Looms Large for Religious Organizations after Supreme Court’s Expansive Interpretation of “Sex”

By Simms Showers LLP |

Liability Looms Large for Religious Organizations after Supreme Court’s Expansive Interpretation of “Sex” By H. Robert Showers, Esq. and Kyle D. Winey, Esq. Last Updated: July 13, 2020 As the culture wars reach a fever pitch, the U.S. Supreme Court analyzed, in the recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, whether an employee may… Read More »

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How to Investigate a Sexual Harassment Allegation

By Simms Showers LLP |

How to Investigate a Sexual Harassment Allegation Seven steps to take when an allegation arises—and when outside help may prove wisest. By William R. Thetford Jr. Esq. and H. Robert Showers Esq. Every church should have a carefully crafted and legally sound policy to address sexual harassment. Such a policy can help guide and protect… Read More »

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Seven Steps for Creating an Effective Sexual Harassment Policy

By Simms Showers LLP |

Seven Steps for Creating an Effective Sexual Harassment Policy By William R. Thetford Jr. Esq. and H. Robert Showers Esq. Updated July 1, 2020 A carefully crafted policy not only can provide protection for all involved, but also can serve as a deterrent. The #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements have captured headlines and national attention in recent… Read More »

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Conducting Youth/Children Ministry in a Digital Age

By Simms Showers LLP |

Conducting Youth/Children Ministry in a Digital Age By Robert Showers, Esq. and Justin R. Coleman, Esq. Updated June 23, 2020 With the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders being issued by various states and local municipalities, churches have had to look to new ways to minister the gospel to its members and attendees. With… Read More »

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Conducting Youth/Children Ministry in a Digital Age

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Robert Showers, Esq. and Justin R. Coleman, Esq. With the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay at home executive orders being issued by various states, churches have had to look to new ways to minister the Gospel to its members and attendees. With online streaming and digital video conferencing, churches are able to connect… Read More »

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Important Developments Implementing the CARES ACT and FFCRA: How the PPP, EIDL, and Tax Credits Are Impacting Businesses, Churches, and Nonprofits

By Simms Showers LLP |

By William R. Thetford, Esq. and H. Robert Showers, Esq. Last Updated: April 29, 2020. Note: This is the subject of a rapidly evolving landscape. Please stay tuned for updates as they become available. This article updates our series of articles on the CARES Act concerning the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Emergency Injury… Read More »

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ONLINE MEETINGS FOR CHURCHES AND NONPROFITS FAQs

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Robert Showers, Esq. and William Thetford, Esq. Consider the following common scenarios for churches and nonprofits in this online stay at home world:   1) A member organization (church or nonprofit with members) requires a membership meeting by a certain date each year to pass the annual budget and elect new leaders. The… Read More »

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New Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law in Virginia: Ramifications for Religious Employers and Others

By Simms Showers LLP |

By William R. Thetford, Esq. and H. Robert Showers, Esq. Easter weekend marked the passage of the controversial Virginia Values Act (Senate Bill 868 and House Bill 1663: the “Act”) which is ironically named for political reasons. The Virginia House and the Senate recently passed the Act and on Saturday, April 11, Governor Ralph… Read More »

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Important Developments Implementing the CARES ACT and FFCRA

By Simms Showers LLP |

Important Developments Implementing the CARES ACT and FFCRA: How the PPP, EIDL, and Tax Credits Are Impacting Businesses, Churches, and Nonprofits By William R. Thetford, Esq. and H. Robert Showers, Esq. Last Updated: April 14, 2020. Note: This is the subject of a rapidly evolving landscape. Please stay tuned for updates as they become… Read More »

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Stay-At-Home Executive Orders: What Do They Mean and Don’t Mean for Your Church, Non-Profit, and Business

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Justin Coleman, Esq. and Robert Showers, Esq. In response to the increased number of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 in the Mid-Atlantic potentially due to citizens ignoring the Center for Disease Control’s (“CDC”) social distancing guidelines, the mayor of the District of Columbia and the governors of Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina issued… Read More »

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How CARES Act Impacts Small Businesses, Churches, Nonprofits and Individuals

By Simms Showers LLP |

By William R. Thetford, Esq. and H. Robert Showers, Esq. Note: This is the subject of a rapidly evolving landscape. Please utilize this article for an overview of the Act and relevant programs and see our updates article for developments. Businesses, nonprofits and churches have faced unprecedented levels of restrictions on travel, meeting, and… Read More »

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How New FMLA Changes and EPSLA Will Affect Churches and Nonprofits During the Coronavirus Outbreak throughout 2020.

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Robert Showers, Esq. and Q&A with permission of Danny Miller, Esq. March 27, 2020 The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“Act”) has now been enacted, the second significant federal law addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. The Act is designed to provide paid leave to cushion employees who cannot work due to certain virus-related circumstances…. Read More »

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SEPARATION AND DIVORCE-WHEN IT HAPPENS ANYWAY: How Pastors can best respond to marital crisis in their congregation

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Dominique Callins, Esq. Divorce. A word hardly uttered in holy gathering, except in swift and definite condemnation- or at least strong disapproval. It is the occurrence dreaded, the status shamed, the event experienced by those lost, unrepentant souls. And yet it is a statistic certainty that at least 40% of the married American… Read More »

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Parking Lot Tax Repealed

By Simms Showers LLP |

By H. Robert Showers, Esq. A very controversial provision called the “Parking Lot Tax” which was included with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) was officially repealed December 20, 2019, after President Trump signed into law two spending packages—worth a combined $1.4 trillion—that Congress adopted earlier. The original provision was an… Read More »

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Tips for your Organization’s Next Construction Project

By Simms Showers LLP |

By J. Caleb Jones, Esq. and Robert Showers, Esq. The building your church or non-profit organization occupies is essential for your organization to fulfill its purpose. In any thriving organization, the construction, renovation, or repair of your facility should be expected. Unfortunately, even when thriving organizations adequately plan to meet their ministry’s facility needs,… Read More »

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New overtime rules under Fair Labor Standards Act take affect 2020 and will impact churches, nonprofit and business

By Simms Showers LLP |

By H. Robert Showers, Esq. On September 24, 2019, the US Department of Labor announced the final version of its rule. The major change is that the “standard salary level” is $684 per week, or $35,568 per year which is nearly 50% increase from the current threshold. The US Department of Labor (DOL) is… Read More »

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Resolving Conflicts Before They Start: Court Enforcement of Church Bylaws

By Simms Showers LLP |

By William R. Thetford, Esq. and H. Robert Showers, Esq. In some ways, a successful business, nonprofit, or church share many similarities. All involve governing structures outlining the chain of command and governing documents outlining the specifics as to how the business/church/nonprofit will be operated, etc. In other ways, they are far different, specifically… Read More »

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PROTECTING CHILDREN IN CHURCH SMALL GROUP SETTINGS

By Simms Showers LLP |

By H. Robert Showers, Esq. Small Groups are really important in today’s churches for many theological, practical, and marketing reasons. These programs are promoted as a great way to get connected with others in the church on a more personal level. Getting to know fellow church members can pose a challenge if one attends… Read More »

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Can the IRS Tax Your Organization’s Parking Lot?

By Simms Showers LLP |

By William R. Thetford, Esq. and H. Robert Showers, Esq.   Unfortunately, for now, the answer is yes! The new year is a time that many organizations begin to prepare their taxes. The IRS just released guidance on a recent controversial tax change that could significantly impact churches and nonprofit organizations as well as… Read More »

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HOW CHURCHES AND NONPROFITS SHOULD ADDRESS SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE #METOO ERA

By Simms Showers LLP |

By William R. Thetford Jr., Esq. and H. Robert Showers, Esq. The #MeToo generation has captured headlines and national attention in recent months, placing a renewed emphasis on understanding, exposing, and preventing sexual misconduct. This topic impacts culture broadly, and churches and nonprofit organizations are not exempt from the danger. This renewed wave of… Read More »

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U.S. Supreme Court Decides For Religious Liberty

By Simms Showers LLP |

After many months of deliberation, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS” or “the Court”) found in favor of Jack Phillips, the Masterpiece Cake shop owner, in a 7-2 holding (i.e. seven Justices found in his favor, and two dissented).  In short, Masterpiece Cakeshop is a custom bakery owned and operated out of… Read More »

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NOT EVERYTHING IS A POLITICAL ISSUE: A REFRESHER FOR CHURCHES AND NONPROFITS ON LOBBYING AND POLITICAL CAMPAIGNING

By Simms Showers LLP |

By: Justin R. Coleman, Esq. and Robert Showers, Esq. For the last few years, it seems that every topic or issue has devolved into a political debate. Even those matters that were once thought collectively agreed-upon have resulted in shouting matches, even between Christians and other people of faith. With the 2018 mid-term elections… Read More »

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Will Your Nonprofit or Church Survive Inside the Trump Tax Cuts?

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Kyle D. Winey, Esq., Justin R. Coleman, Esq., and Robert Showers, Esq. (SS Quarterly 2018 2nd Quarter) The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Act”) was signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017, in what the New York Times called “the most sweeping rewrite of the tax code in decades.”[i]… Read More »

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New Federal Legislation Affecting Church and Community Youth Sport Programs

By Simms Showers LLP |

President Trump recently signed new legislation which will affect privately run youth sport programs directly and indirectly, including church and community youth sports programs. Given the broad scope of the bill, this memo will address specifically how it will affect churches, nonprofits, and private community sports programs. Should you desire to read more on… Read More »

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Protecting Your Church in Troubled Times: A Guide to Establishing Church Security Protocols

By Simms Showers LLP |

By H. Robert Showers, Esq. and Bethany R. Horvat, Paralegal   It was just last month when the final surviving victim from the Sutherland Springs church shooting returned home from the hospital. Shot five times, young Ryland is only six years old. He lost his stepmother and two sisters (ages five and seven) in… Read More »

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TEN SERIOUS PROBLEMS TO AVOID FOR YEAR-END GIFT RECEIPTS

By Simms Showers LLP |

By H. Robert Showers, Esq. (SS Quarterly 2017 – 4th Quarter) Near the end of any calendar year, donors and members will once again be searching for added ways to give while hoping to get the most tax benefits associated with charitable gifts. However, it may be your nonprofit/church’s job to help them achieve… Read More »

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COMMON PITFALLS WITH SOCIALIZING GOVERNING DOCUMENTS

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Justin R. Coleman, Esq. (SS Quarterly 2017 – 4th Quarter)   Whenever an entity organizes or amends its governing documents, the voting members[1] of the entity must vote to legally adopt these documents.  In order to intelligently cast their vote, those members must have an opportunity to actually see and review the proposed… Read More »

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PASTORAL SEPARATION AGREEMENTS

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Mike Grubbs, Esq. and Robert Showers, Esq. Reasons for a pastoral separation can span the spectrum from voluntary resignation to involuntary termination. Perhaps the pastor accepts a position at another church or leaves vocational ministry. Other times, poor performance, a change in ministry direction, and funding can initiate a pastoral separation. In other… Read More »

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CHRISTIAN FOR PROFITS: UNDERSTANDING PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION LAWS’ IMPACT ON CHRISTIAN BUSINESS OWNERS

By Simms Showers LLP |

By David Hyams, Esq. and H. Robert Showers, Esq. “Fascists!”…“Bigots!”…“Theocracy!!” The blood-curdling screams against humble florists and bakers seem almost comical, but the crushing fines and social stigma imposed on these small business owners are no laughing matter. Now, public accommodation laws are being employed to shut Christian businesses down so we need to… Read More »

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“Always Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth”: How to Avoid an Excess Benefit Transaction

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Justin R. Coleman, Esq. and Robert Showers, Esq. (SS Quarterly 2017 – 3rd Quarter) Due to its charitable nature, churches and nonprofits often receive offers for goods and services from its members and donors. More often than not, these goods and services are offered for free because that member/donor wants to “bless” the… Read More »

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Non-Profit Cash Reserves the Right Way

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Michael R. Grubbs, Jr., Esq.   A 2015 survey of non-profits concluded that over 75% of all non-profits had less than 6 months of operating cash reserves, and almost a quarter had one month or less. According to a 2016 report, the story is about the same in the for-profit small businesses arena…. Read More »

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MINIMIZE CHILD ABUSE- HOW TO DO EXCELLENT BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR CHILD AND FINANCIAL PROTECTION-PART 1

By Simms Showers LLP |

By H. Robert Showers, Esq.  Protecting your organization, both from legal liability and from the havoc that one employee or volunteer can create, is a long-term responsibility that requires vigilance and care at every level.  This responsibility begins even before you hire an employee or retain a volunteer, as you create questions on your… Read More »

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Litigation Issues for Church Property Ownership

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Daniel J. Hebda, Esq. Among the many amazing assets and tools with which Churches are equipped, the real property on which they worship, train, minister, and serve has to rank near the top of the list.  Owning a piece of land brings invaluable security and stability to a ministry and those church properties… Read More »

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4 Items That Need to Be on Your Nonprofit or Church’s Mid-Year To-Do List

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Mike Grubbs, Esq. and Robert Showers, Esq. Review your budget and financial controls For churches and nonprofits on a calendar-year budget cycle, mid-year is the perfect time to consider a mid-year budget adjustment. Collect all expenses and donations and other revenue for January – June, and, in early July, project out for the… Read More »

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A WALKTHROUGH OF AN ANNUAL MEETING

By Simms Showers LLP |

By Justin R. Coleman, Esq. Simms Showers, LLP   All organizations hold meetings throughout the year.  These meetings may be a lunch meeting of the partners of a landscaping business, a congregational meeting of a local church, or the annual stockholders’ meeting of Berkshire Hathaway in Omaha, Nebraska.  These meetings may happen as frequently… Read More »

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Religious For-Profits: Oxymoron or Orthodox Obedience?

By Simms Showers LLP |

By David Hyams, Esq. and Robert Showers, Esq. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Col. 3:23-24   Our work… Read More »

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Incorporation of Churches: A New Day

By Simms Showers LLP |

While it is estimated that over 90% of all churches are now incorporated with all states now permitting it, most governing documents are not well drafted, woefully out of date or not followed. Thus, they do not adequately protect the church or its leadership or contain the 21st century risk management provisions that are… Read More »

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Immigration Changes for Nonprofits and Churches

By Simms Showers LLP |

  1. Form I-9 Changes in January 2017 Recently the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a new version of its Form I-9, the Employment Eligibility Verification form and required U.S. employers to begin using the new Form I-9 by January 22, 2017.  Currently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement conduct thousands of I-9… Read More »

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Nonprofit and Church Alert: Court Stalls New FLSA Rule

By Simms Showers LLP |

On November 22, 2016, a federal court enjoined the new FLSA salary rule that was scheduled to take effect December 1, 2016. That start date is postponed indefinitely pending further action of the Courts, Executive branch or Congress or all three. Judge Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas granted an Emergency Motion for… Read More »

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The Benefits of a Registered Agent

By Simms Showers LLP |

A corporate entity of any kind is what the law refers to as a “legal fiction.” It technically does not exist, at least not on its own. It is a fiction; a story that must be told and re-told. When the story stops being told, the corporation becomes a pretense and all the things… Read More »

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New Fair Labor Standards Act Changes to Take Effect December 1, 2016

By Simms Showers LLP |

The Department of Labor recently issued significant and sweeping salary threshold changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) through its Final Rule, published on May 18, 2016.  The Rule is set to go into effect on December 1, 2016.  These changes are the result of a Presidential Memorandum issued by President Obama in… Read More »

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How to Avoid a Lawsuit When Exercising Church Discipline

By Simms Showers LLP |

“I’ll see you in court” is a common phrase heard in movies and T.V. shows, but when uttered to a pastor or in a church it is the cause of great anxiety and dread. Unfortunately, church discipline and the departure of a pastor provide fertile grounds for lawsuits. Claims of defamation, tortious invasion of… Read More »

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A House on Solid Rock or A House of Cards?

By Simms Showers LLP |

Why proper incorporation in Virginia is more than simply filing articles of incorporation with the state. When the United States District Court of the Western District of Virginia struck down the portion of the Virginia Constitution denying churches the ability to incorporate as unconstitutional in 2002[1], Virginia became the 49th state to permit church… Read More »

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Violence In The Church

By Simms Showers LLP |

Though they have historically been considered places of refuge, churches are more frequently becoming the target of violent crimes.  For example, in 2014, 176 deadly force incidents were documented at churches and faith-based organizations in the U.S., representing more than a 20% increase over similar numbers from 2012.[1]  This trend only seems to have… Read More »

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How Should A Pastor Approach Divorce?

By Simms Showers LLP |

Marriage is at the center of God’s plan for creation. From the very beginning, God emphasized the sacredness of marriage and the family. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches about the importance of marriage and lifelong commitment: “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together,… Read More »

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It’s A Wonderful Life and The Value of A Church

By Simms Showers LLP |

It is Christmas season, and many of us will follow the old ritual of watching It’s a Wonderful Life. There George Bailey, after pouring himself out for his community in the grips of the Depression, thinks he has made no difference and despairs of life. That is, until Clarence the angel sets him straight… Read More »

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Financial Support for Individual Missionaries From Your Congregation

By Simms Showers LLP |

Here’s the scenario: Your church is sending a congregation member abroad on mission. The missionary will not be traveling with a mission agency, and so your church must directly support the missionary. How do you ensure that donations for the missionary’s benefit will be tax deductible? How can your church make sure that funds… Read More »

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To Merge or Not to Merge: That is the Question

By Simms Showers LLP |

Increasingly, churches and nonprofits are thinking about mergers and “acquisitions” due to the challenging financial times, increased tax exempt regulations and aging membership/decreased donations. While there appear to be some resources which discuss whether a church or nonprofit should merge or not, there is little guidance about practical applications and/or how to legally effectuate… Read More »

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Going Deeper: Does FLSA Apply to My Church or Nonprofit?

By Simms Showers LLP |

Generally, all employers are subject to the minimum wage requirements and overtime pay requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) if they meet interstate commerce requirements either corporately or individually.  Thankfully, non-profits and churches enjoy some special exemptions under FLSA, some of which may help exempt many churches and religious nonprofits. There is… Read More »

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Radical Changes Coming to Salary & Overtime Regulations in 2016

By Simms Showers LLP |

By July 2016, the Department of Labor is slated to release new regulations that will raise the minimum salary requirement for exempt employees.  Currently, in order to be exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA, an employee must earn a minimum salary of $23,660 and have specific job responsibilities.  Under the proposed rules,… Read More »

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How Does the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Affect Your Tax-Exempt Organization?

By Simms Showers LLP |

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted in 2010, it fundamentally altered the health insurance landscape in the U.S.  Although the ACA become law five years ago, it still has not been fully implemented. Instead, the federal agencies tasked with implementing the law, namely, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Internal… Read More »

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“Top Ten Legal Hotspots” for Lawyers Serving on Boards for Churches and Non-Profits

By Simms Showers LLP |

If you are “THE lawyer” on a church or non-profit Board of Directors, then you’re familiar with the unwarranted expectation that, despite your actual area of legal expertise, all potential legal liabilities are now covered by your presence. However, you also know that this is tantamount to expecting that a talented orthopedic surgeon can… Read More »

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Do’s and Don’ts of Effective and Legal Use of For-Profits with Non-Profits

By Simms Showers LLP |

Increasingly, it has become common practice for churches and non-profits to combine their ministry with a related for-profit endeavor.  Whether it’s a coffee shop or a manufacturing enterprise, non-profits can often be seen involving themselves in successful and profitable businesses.  Because of the significant differences between for-profit and non-profit activities and structures, an unwary… Read More »

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Legal Hotspots for Churches with Rob Showers

By Simms Showers LLP |

Rob Showers, the managing partner of the Northern Virginia/Metropolitan D.C. branch of Simms Showers LLP, and Daniel Hebda, an associate attorney with the firm will be presenting a seminar on “Legal Hotspots for Churches” at Antioch Baptist Church on June 13thfrom 9:00 A.M.-12:00 P.M. Mr. Showers is a former Chief Assistant US Attorney with… Read More »

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Broken Trust: Protect Your Church from Embezzlement

By Simms Showers LLP |

Jim, a local police officer nearing retirement, was an usher at his church for over fifteen years. The community trusted Jim, and the church leadership gave him the responsibility of counting the offerings after services each Sunday. No one even imagined that Jim would steal money from the collection plate. Until, that is, a… Read More »

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Ways for Churches to Approach Same-Sex Marriage

By Simms Showers LLP |

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court handed down two landmark decisions involving same-sex marriage.  Because of these decisions, the federal definition of “marriage” can no longer exclude same-sex couples who were legally married under state law.  Similarly, this summer the Supreme Court is expected to review four same-sex marriage cases which may definitively… Read More »

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“Go Out to All the Nations,” But Sign This Waiver First

By Simms Showers LLP |

Do liability waivers for minors on mission trips actually protect your church? Youth mission trips are a ministry of many churches and nonprofits across the country. Every year, thousands of young people travel to destinations across the state, country, and even the globe. Before the plane takes off or the bus pulls away, most,… Read More »

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Successful Church Assimilation of Sex Offenders

By Simms Showers LLP |

In a recent survey of nearly 3,000 church leaders, an overwhelming number said they believe churches should welcome known sex offenders, despite their criminal pasts. Nearly 80 percent said sex offenders should belong to a church, while only 3 percent thought they should be completely excluded, according to the “Sex Offenders in the Church”… Read More »

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Am I Giving Away the Church This Christmas?

By Simms Showers LLP |

Historically, churches have been a source of relief for the needy in their congregation and their community at large.  Any movie set in Medieval Europe will almost certainly contain a church scene with a friar or monk seeking “Alms for the poor!”  One of the primary missions of the early church was to help… Read More »

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Legal Alert: Court of Appeals Dismisses Atheist Group’s Challenge to Ministerial Housing Allowance

By Simms Showers LLP |

This time last year, a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that the ministerial housing allowance, which gives ministers a tax break on funds they receive from their congregation for use on housing, was unconstitutional. Co-presidents of the atheist organization Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) brought the lawsuit, claiming that the law is discriminatory and… Read More »

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Reporting Child Abuse: What is Your Duty?

By Simms Showers LLP |

Consider the following scenarios: • Parents tell the pastor they believe, based on examination and the strange behavior of their 2-year-old daughter, that she was molested by her Sunday School teacher. • A volunteer tells the pastor she has seen an adult Praise Factory worker take the same 3-year-old child to the bathroom alone… Read More »

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Common Pitfalls to Avoid in Hiring and Firing

By Simms Showers LLP |

In our tight economy, hearing “You got the job!” may be one of the most thrilling moments a person can have, while hearing “You’re fired!” may consequently be one of the scariest moments. As an employer, you hold in your hand the fate of your employees and the fate of dozens of well-qualified potential… Read More »

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Christian Mediation and Arbitration: How to Keep Your Church or Non-profit Out of Court

By Simms Showers LLP |

Every year, thousands of lawsuits are filed in America against churches, schools, other non-profits, and related entities. These lawsuits range from injuries on church property to disagreements over employment, from accidents on youth group trips to cases of sexual abuse. Indeed, the recently publicized sexual abuse cases and multi-million dollar settlements within the Catholic… Read More »

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Is My Church Being Overseen by Wise Counsel or Wise Guys?

By Simms Showers LLP |

Starting and running a church can be a more complex task than it appears at first blush. There are the usual requirements for starting a church: finding a good pastor, finding a place of worship, and building a strong member community. Even with these elements, however, a church can run aground of basic legal… Read More »

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Seventh Circuit to Hear Constitutional Challenge to Ministerial Housing Allowance

By Simms Showers LLP |

Does your organization have ordained ministers?  Do you give them a tax-free payment yearly to help with their housing?  If so, read more about the upcoming hearing that challenges the constitutionality of this practice, as well as what it means and does not mean for your organization.    Later this year, in the case… Read More »

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“Today’s Sermon Is Brought to You by…” – Intellectual Property and Ownership

By Simms Showers LLP |

A church recently updated its website.  The webmaster has recommended to the leadership to record and upload the weekly worship service, including the sermon, onto the website.  The outstanding majority of the deacons agree with the recommendation as it would allow members who are unable to attend services to watch remotely and allow those… Read More »

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Church Third Party Use Agreements: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You!

By Simms Showers LLP |

Renting or allowing use of church and ministry facilities has many new added risks:  child abuse liability, unwanted purposes (same sex marriages) or activities on premises (illegal or risky), liability that is not covered by insurance or renters’ indemnity, and getting dragged into court by renter/user for some unforeseen offense. The optimum “Church Facilities… Read More »

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BREAKING LEGAL NEWS: Hobby Lobby and What It Means for Churches and Nonprofits

By Simms Showers LLP |

The Supreme Court recently delivered a decisive, though limited, victory for religious liberty in its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) contraceptive mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a statute that was passed… Read More »

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Granting Money from a U.S. Charity or Church to a Foreign Individual or NGO: Substantial Risks and Best Practices

By Simms Showers LLP |

Many times, conducting charitable work necessitates broadening an organization’s reach, which often in turn requires working outside of the United States. Unfortunately, while these endeavors are exciting, they are complicated and risky for the churches and nonprofit organizations who are involved. Of the many types of risks involved, one of the primary areas involves… Read More »

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Wired Worship: Is Your Church Ready to Make Wi-Fi Available to the Congregation?

By Simms Showers LLP |

The availability of free wireless internet (“Wi-Fi”) is rapidly expanding, with free Wi-Fi available in coffee shops, parks, and libraries. Many churches want to add their campus to the growing list of “hotspots” (locations where free Wi-Fi is available) in the community, as both a friendly gesture to their congregations and as an aid to their ministries. However, before a… Read More »

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Is Social Media Helping or Hurting Your Church?

By Simms Showers LLP |

Social media has become the new popular form of communication in the 21st Century. In 2013, 70 percent of churches have a Facebook account and 21 percent use Twitter. The proper use of social media can be a great benefit to your church by providing information to your membership and furthering your involvement in… Read More »

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What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You: Myths and Misconceptions About Church/Nonprofit Employment Liability

By Simms Showers LLP |

Lawsuits alleging wrongful employment practices are the fastest-growing area of civil litigation today. In fact, according to church and non-profit insurers, well over half of the claims annually stem from employment problems such as wrongful termination, discrimination, sexual harassment, disability, or other employment related claims.  Unfortunately, many churches and nonprofits are unaware or treat… Read More »

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October 1st Fraud Liability-Shift Deadline Approaches for Churches, Nonprofits, and Businesses Who Accept “Swipe-and-Sign” Credit Card Payments

By Simms Showers LLP |

Have you received a new credit card in the mail recently? Does it have a special embedded chip in it? This new chip technology is known as EMV (named for its developers: EuroPay, MasterCard, and Visa; also known as “chip-and-PIN”), and it represents a big step forward in putting a stop to credit card… Read More »

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Employment Handbooks: Do’s & Don’ts

By Simms Showers LLP |

For a business, the employment handbook or personnel manual is typically the first source of information for questions regarding employee salaries, benefits, expectations, and operational procedures. However, many for-profit and non-profit organizations will either not have written policies or create a handbook from “template” models available online or at a bookstore without seeking advice… Read More »

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Church, Nonprofit and Small Business Health Care Tax Credit: What It Is and How to Claim It

By Simms Showers LLP |

Don’t leave money on the table this tax season!  The small business health insurance tax credit is granted to small employers, including tax-exempt employers such as churches and nonprofits, who pay at least 50% of their employees’ health insurance premiums for a qualified health plan. The tax credit is calculated as a percentage of… Read More »

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