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Can “Faith” be Protected in Faith Based Nonprofits?

By July 13, 2016October 8th, 2016No Comments

Images_horiz2016Every day faith-based organizations provide a multitude of services for and to people in their communities and around the world. Services including feeding the hungry, providing emergency shelter to the homeless, sharing the Gospel, mentoring at-risk youth and more. The worth of faith based organizations is being called into question leaving some to wonder if their work is truly worthwhile. Of course, those involved in faith based organizations know that they are filling needs and making a difference. But, many faith based organizations are starting to feel that they need to take the Christian out of their organization.

Christian nonprofits across the United States are facing challenges as they live out their values and beliefs. There is fear about who they can hire, what they can say they believe and musings about whether or not they need to change the bathrooms to unisex. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith, Christian organizations can protect themselves.

According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, faith based organizations can protect their right to operate out of their Christian values by ensuring their by-laws contain the following:

Statement of Faith – Many faith based organizations have not included their statement of faith in their by-laws. A statement of faith is a MUST. The statement of faith shares the organization’s religious beliefs and documents them should they ever be questioned. Because they are included in the by-laws, there is evidence in the event they are questioned. The Statement of Faith should be detailed and should include a statement on marriage, on the sanctity of life and who is the final authority on any matters of faith (this will usually be the board of directors).

Religious Employment – Hiring staff is one area where many faith based organizations question what they can and can’t do. We have all heard that federal law and most state laws prohibit discrimination; however religious organizations can consider an individual’s religious beliefs in hiring decisions. To protect itself, the organization will want to include specifics in its by-laws about hiring individuals whose beliefs correspond to your statement of faith and values. It is important to note that requirements may be different for individuals at varying levels of organizational leadership.

Code of Conduct – Within the Statement of Faith, organizations need to include a code of conduct that details what is and what is not acceptable behavior. Included in the code of conduct should be detailed and should tie to scripture. While some areas of conduct may be controversial, organizations will also want to include other behaviors such as theft. As part of the code of conduct, the organization will also want to outline consequences for misconduct.

Now may be the time to review and tweak your organization’s by-laws. Filing amendments to the by-laws to ensure they will adequately protect the organization in today’s society is a matter of stewardship. Contact us today, we can help you with a review and amendments to present to the board of directors.

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