By the BRN Administrative Team
Does your church permit facility usage by outside or public parties? Is your church used for weddings, receptions, or other group functions? If so, is your church protected by the First Amendment? The free exercise clause of the First Amendment protects churches based on religiously held convictions. This is important so that your church can minimize its legal vulnerability.
At a recent meeting of our Executive Board, a pastor asked, “Do you have any guidance for churches trying to address the challenges to the First Amendment that we have been facing?” While much has been written addressing these issues, what he was looking for were practical steps to prepare the church legally. After consultation among our staff and with guidance from our convention attorney, Greg Reed, we have developed a simple two-step document entitled “Maximizing First Amendment Protections” for churches to review.
Your legal vulnerability should be looked at from two perspectives:
First, the church needs to clearly articulate in its constitution and bylaws its deeply held religious convictions. These convictions may be documented in your church policy by referencing a statement of faith—i.e., our “Baptist Faith and Message,” which includes items such as marriage being a contract or covenant exclusively between a man and woman.
Second, the church needs to state in a building-use policy how it will safeguard the public use of church facilities. The building-use policy should refer back to the statement of faith that the church has adopted in its constitution and bylaws. The building-use policy should also include written guidelines and criteria which outside or public parties view and agree to before using the facilities.
At the BRN our desire is to assist churches so you are better equipped to transform the spiritual lives of those in the surrounding community, while safeguarding the church’s ministry.
If you are interested in viewing the detailed document referenced above, please email with your request. We will be happy to share it with you.