Religious Organizations

Sherman & Howard’s Religious Organizations Practice Group provides counsel to a wide array of churches, church denominations, religious educational institutions and other religious organizations. Our attorneys provide responsive and cost-effective support focused on the unique needs and objectives of our faith-based clients.

Our Expertise

  • Corporate formation, governance and reorganizations
  • Tax exempt status issues and planning
  • Employment law issues and volunteer liability
  • Employee benefits
  • Child protection policies and controversies
  • First Amendment and religious accommodations
  • International operations, transactions and registrations
  • Trademarks, copyrights, patents and other intellectual property matters, including licensing
  • Publishing and media activities
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Partnerships, joint ventures, cooperatives, commercial co-ventures and other strategic alliances
  • Reorganizations and dissolutions; restructuring and bankruptcy
  • Regulatory and reporting issues
  • Fundraising matters
  • Government funding
  • Debt issues, tax-exempt bond financing and other loan transactions
  • Litigation and alternative dispute resolution proceedings
  • Real estate acquisitions, mortgages, leases and environmental compliance
  • Data protection, transfer and privacy strategies

Representative Clients

  • Azusa Pacific University
  • Biblica Inc.
  • Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
  • Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado
  • Cherry Hills Community Church
  • Christian Care Ministry
  • Christian Leadership Alliance
  • Church of the Nazarene
  • Community Bible Study
  • Compassion International
  • ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians
  • Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes
  • Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Kanakuk Ministries
  • Mount Hermon Association, Inc.
  • OMF International
  • Operation Mobilization
  • Samaritan’s Purse
  • The Christian and Missionary Alliance
  • The Navigators
  • Upward Unlimited
  • World Vision
  • Wycliffe Bible Translators, Inc.
  • YMCA of the Rockies
  • Young Life
  • Youth for Christ

Our Involvement
Attorneys who work on our Religious Organizations Practice Group are also active as board members, speakers, writers, board members and advisory council members of organizations that serve religious organizations. These include:

  • Association of Christian Schools International
  • Christian Camp and Conference Association
  • Christian Legal Society
  • Christian Leadership Alliance
  • Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
  • Christianity Today-Church Management Editorial Advisory Board
  • Exempt Organizations Committee and Religious Organizations Subcommittee, Taxation Section of the American Bar Association
  • Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability
  • Missio Nexus

Religious Organizations

+First Amendment and Religious Liberty

Sherman & Howard’s Religious Organizations Practice Group has substantial experience with religious liberty and First Amendment issues that are critical for organizations seeking to cultivate and advance their distinctly religious character and mission. We help our clients navigate through the complex and dynamic intersection of religion and civil law.

Religious Tax Exemptions. We assist clients in securing the benefit of property, sales/use and income tax exemptions based on their religious character and/or mission. We also help clients with more specialized exemptions, such as the housing allowance for ministers, “church” status under the Internal Revenue Code and the religious employer exemption in the Affordable Care Act.

Faith-Based Employment. We advise and represent clients on the right to make employment decisions based on religious considerations (pursuant to federal, state and local laws). We help clients develop policies and practices to ensure that they retain this right in various employment contexts.

Amicus Briefs. We prepare and file amicus briefs in key federal and state cases involving legal principles particularly important to religious organizations. In 2010, 2011 and 2013, we filed briefs on behalf of over 40 national religious organization clients in 3 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Church Property. We have advised a number of church denominational bodies and other church organizations, including The Christian and Missionary Alliance and ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, on church property matters.

Immigration. We have successfully challenged numerous erroneous interpretations by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service of various religious worker visa requirements. In addition, we have submitted extensive comments on behalf of a broad coalition of religious organizations with respect to proposed regulations that would make it more difficult to obtain religious worker visas.

Funding for Faith-Based Organizations. We have advised faith-based organizations with respect to opportunities to receive funds from governmental agencies for their activities. We have identified and challenged the conditions attached to such funds that could impair the religious character and mission of our clients.

Representative First Amendment and Religious Liberty Clients

  • American Bible Society
  • Association of Christian Schools International
  • Azusa Pacific University
  • Biblica Inc.
  • Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
  • Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado
  • Church of the Nazarene
  • Colorado Christian University
  • Compassion International
  • Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
  • Denver Rescue Mission
  • Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes
  • Mount Hermon Association, Inc.
  • Regent University
  • Samaritan’s Purse
  • Stonecroft Ministries, Inc.
  • The Christian and Missionary Alliance
  • The Navigators
  • Upward Unlimited
  • Waterstone
  • World Vision
  • YMCA of the Rockies
  • Young Life
  • Youth for Christ
+International

Sherman & Howard’s Religious Organizations Practice Group has assisted ministry organization clients in more than 75 countries, working in a wide variety of areas. It has been a unique privilege to be able to assist these clients as they have worked to fulfill their mission worldwide.

Our Expertise

  • Trademark and copyright protection
  • Corporate structuring and registrations
  • Regulatory compliance
  • OFAC licenses and anti-terrorist financing rules
  • Employment matters
  • Application of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
  • International grant-making
  • “Business as mission” strategies

Representative International Clients

  • ABWE Ministries
  • American Bible Society
  • Association of Christian Schools International
  • Biblica Inc.
  • Church of the Nazarene
  • Compassion International
  • English Language Institute/China
  • Far East Broadcasting Company
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes
  • MOPS International
  • OC International
  • OMF International
  • One Child Matters
  • Operation Mobilization
  • The Navigators
  • Upward Unlimited
  • Wycliffe Bible Translators, Inc.
  • Young Life
+Faith-Based Educational Institutions

Sherman & Howard’s Religious Organizations Practice Group helps faith-based educational institutions capture new opportunities to serve their students, faculty and other constituents. We understand the unique legal challenges associated with such opportunities, and we draw upon a deep bench of highly experienced attorneys to address these challenges.

Our Expertise

  • Employment law (including faculty and staff contracts and policies), employee benefits, and volunteer liability
  • Student safety and privacy issues and policies
  • Tax planning (including federal, state and local exemptions and unrelated trade or business income tax)
  • Transactions, mergers and acquisitions (including partnerships and joint ventures)
  • Corporate governance and structure
  • International operations, transactions and registrations
  • Government relations and contracts
  • Advertising and marketing of institutions
  • Constitutional law (including First Amendment, religious accommodations and other civil rights as well as government funding restrictions)
  • Immigration and visa issues
  • Fundraising (including endowment management, charitable solicitation registrations, and current and deferred giving instruments)
  • Finance, including tax exempt financing
  • Restructuring and bankruptcy
  • Trademark, copyright and patent protection
  • Licensing, publishing, technology transfer, and sponsored research agreements
  • Real estate; construction; environmental compliance
  • Litigation and dispute resolution, including antitrust
  • Liability risk management and insurance coverage
  • Responding to data security breaches
  • Collecting, using, sharing data

Representative Faith-Based Educational Institution Clients

  • Association of Christian Schools International
  • Azusa Pacific University
  • Colorado Christian University
  • Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
  • Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Judson University
  • Regent University
  • Valor Christian School
  • Westmont College
+Current and Deferred Giving

Sherman & Howard’s Religious Organizations Practice Group routinely assists organizations looking to achieve their mission by supporting their current and deferred fundraising efforts. Our lawyers are also highly experienced in structuring gifts to faith-based organizations that maximize the effectiveness of tax-advantaged giving strategies.

Our Expertise

  • Charitable gifts, contributions, and deductibility
  • Donor gift instruments including restricted and outright gifts, donor advised funds, and board designated funds
  • Planned giving arrangements, bargain sales, pooled income funds, charitable lead and remainder trusts, gifts of appreciated property and other types of charitable gifts
  • Legal aspects of benefit events and other fundraising activities
  • Charitable gift annuities and accompanying registration and compliance issues
  • Federal and state fundraising and solicitation registration, reporting and disclosure requirements
  • Endowments: creation, use, and control of funds, management and investment policies, creditor protection and restrictions on use
  • Commercial co-ventures and related registrations
  • Use of life insurance to support creative giving arrangements

Representative Current and Deferred Giving Clients

  • ABWE Ministries
  • American Bible Society
  • Biblica, Inc
  • Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
  • The Christian and Missionary Alliance
  • Far East Broadcasting Company
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes
  • Mount Hermon Association
  • OC International
  • One Child Matters
  • The Navigators
  • The Orchard Foundation
  • Upward Unlimited
  • Waterstone
  • YMCA of the Rockies
  • Young Life
  • Youth for Christ

Please contact Co-Chairs Stu Lark or John Wylie with any questions.

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