October 12, 2018

Legal Threats to Christian Ministries Are Increasing – Here’s How They Can Respond

John Harding
Other Ministries

The shifting culture is changing how people view religious ministries, and those who manage ministry operations and monitor laws affecting them have seen these changes firsthand.

That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) created the ADF Church Alliance, a membership program that provides practical legal help and upholds religious freedom for churches across America. Shortly after launching the ADF Church Alliance, though, Christian ministries also began reaching out to us looking for similar membership-based legal help.

And it’s no wonder.

State and local governments across the country are questioning the religious nature of what ministries do, resulting in significant challenges. Ministries sometimes feel direct legal pressure, and the Alliance Defending Freedom team represents several such ministries who have found themselves in court.

-Tree of Life Christian Schools has had a long journey of fighting for its rights in court. Upper Arlington, Ohio city officials refused to allow the school to apply for zoning approval after it bought a vacant building in 2010. After over seven years, this case is still in court. The school is still not allowed to use the building for its purposes.

Imagine the impact that these seven years of ministry in the new building could have had on this community – providing more than 150 new jobs to the city, as well as tax revenue greater than what had been realized from the vacant site in many years.

-By The Hand Club For Kids is a ministry of The Moody Church that serves children that live in the inner-city neighborhoods of Chicago and that have a high risk of dropping out of school. It has qualified as tax exempt since its creation in 2001. But Illinois challenged the ministry, stating that it is not “operated primarily for religious purposes.”

What Illinois neglected to acknowledge was that this Chicago-based ministry has plenty to show for its religious identity and purpose: an overt Christian founding and mission as well as regular religious activities such as chapel services, Bible studies, prayer, and worship. Thankfully, an Illinois trial court ruled that By The Hand does, in fact, qualify as a religious organization.

Consider what it would mean for ministries if they had to revoke their religious nature – or somehow diminish it – because of new cultural trends. A government that routinely questions the religious purposes of ministries is troubling to those seeking to faithfully live out their missions. As those challenges increase, ministries need to be legally prepared.

That’s why we recently launched ADF Ministry Alliance – so that ministries can get the religious liberty legal help they need, when they need it.

As challenges arise that question a ministry’s religious nature, we desire to advocate on behalf of that ministry. When critical components of a ministry’s Christian mission are threatened – like who the ministry employs, how it serves, and where it serves – we are here to stand with them.

This program is personal to us – ADF is a ministry too, and how we live out our mission is how we glorify God in our work.

This is a critical time for unity among ministries that seek to freely minister. If we stand together and proactively prepare and protect one another, we can see our ministries and Gospel witness flourish. If we do nothing, we can be assured that our rights will suffer as a result.


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