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THE ADVOCATE

Allen, Forehand & Adams, LLP Attorneys at Law

www.lawyershelpingfamilies.com 

September  2012
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The Advocate is a free newsletter providing legal information to Georgia churches and clergy.



Allen, Forehand & Adams, LLP

Attorneys at Law

Rodney L. Allen, P.C.

Jon V. Forehand, P.C.*

Chris F. West, P.C.


P.O. Box 1687

622 Second Street, S.E.

Moultrie, GA 31776-1687

229-985-3912

FAX: 229-890-3341

Email:

allen.forehand@justice.com

Web Site:

www.lawyershelpingfamilies.com


OFFICE HOURS

Monday-Friday

9:00 A.M.- 5:00 P.M.

Free Consultations


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*Member of the

Million Dollar

Advocates Forum


Our Practice Includes:

  • Representation of Churches, Clergy and Non-Profits
  • Personal Injury
  • Family Law
  • Criminal Defense
  • Real Estate

The Advocate Newsletter is provided by Allen, Forehand & Adams, LLP as an information service to our clients. These articles are not meant as legal opinions and readers are cautioned not to act on information provided within this newsletter without first seeking specific legal advice with respect to their unique circumstances.

Stain glass photo courtesy of Sly Vegas.


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IN THIS ISSUE:

Georgia's New Child Abuse Reporting Law
What your church can learn from Penn State
Non-Profits and Political Activity
Health Care Legislation and your Church


GEORGIA PASSES NEW CHILD ABUSE REPORTING LAW

A recent revision to Georgia law which became effective July 1, 2012, requires more people than ever to report suspected child abuse. House Bill 1176 implements the new law in O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5.


The new law clarifies the child abuse reporting requirements for clergy and other church personnel including volunteers. Under certain circumstances, clergy and other church workers are mandatory reporters. Most church workers will be included in the term “child service organization personnel”, which is defined as “persons employed by or volunteering at a business or organization …. that provides care, treatment, education, training, supervision, coaching, counseling, recreational programs or shelter to children”. Under this broad definition, paid staff or volunteers at a church or church organization providing services to youth would be mandatory reporters. Although a member of the clergy is not required to report child abuse reported solely in the context of confession or similar communication required to be kept confidential under church doctrine or practice, if a clergy member receives information about child abuse from any other source, the clergy member must report, even if he has also received a report of child abuse from the confession or similar communication of the perpetrator.


Georgia law remains unchanged that the failure to report when required to do so can subject the offender to one year in jail or a $1,000.00 fine. In addition, the law continues to provide civil immunity for all persons who report in good faith, whether or not the report turns out to be unfounded or unsubstantiated.


To comply with the law, your church should provide training to all individuals involved with children or youth and implement a specific policy regarding how to deal with reports of abuse. Suspected abuse should be reported to the local Department of Family and Children Services or local law enforcement as soon as possible but no later than 24 hours after there is reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused. The initial report may be made by telephone and should be followed by a written report if requested. The information provided should include, if known, the name and address of the child and parents or care takers, the child’s age, the nature of any injuries and information regarding the identity of the perpetrator.


If your church needs help in implementing a youth protection policy or training to implement such a policy please do not hesitate to contact us.

Jon Forehand 


WHAT YOUR CHURCH CAN LEARN FROM THE PENN STATE SCANDAL

Joe Paterno led Penn State’s football program to unprecedented success on and off the football field. However, his legacy as a great coach has been tarnished by allegations that the school and its leadership failed to properly monitor and address allegations of child sexual abuse. Every church should use the sad example of this scandal as an opportunity for reflection leading to action.

What lessons can your church learn from this scandal?
1.) Make sure your church has a comprehensive youth protection policy in place. A youth protection policy should include adequate screening of all staff and volunteers, policies and oversight to promote a safe environment, education of children and workers, and a response plan.
2.) Make sure all church workers understand state law regarding reporting abuse. Georgia’s child abuse reporting statute is codified at O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5. In some instances clergy and other church workers are mandatory reporters.
3.) Implement appropriate safety policies such as the “Two Deep Rule” and other similar policies that protect the safety and privacy of children.
4.) Contact your Insurance professional to review your policy to make sure you have adequate coverage for intentional acts and sexual misconduct. If your church needs assistance in developing or fine tuning a comprehensive youth protection program, please do not hesitate to contact our office for information or to schedule a training session for your church.
Jon Forehand


NON-PROFITS AND POLITICAL ACTIVITY
Scripture teaches that
there is a God ordained authority for civil government (Romans 13:1) and individuals of faith have the right and responsibility to get involved in government.   However, as we proceed through another election cycle in 2012, remember that federal law prohibits any tax-exempt entity, including churches, from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.  This prohibition applies to any and all campaigns whether at the federal, state or local level.  Since a single transgression into political campaign intervention may lead to a costly challenge to the organization's tax-exemption and possible loss of that status, it is absolutely critical that officers, directors, employees and volunteers closely adhere to a non-intervention policy. 

 

All officers, directors, employees and volunteers of the entity are prohibited from engaging in any partisan activity during work hours and from using any of the entity’s resources, including telephones, facsimile machines, email, mailing lists and meeting space for the benefit of or in opposition to a political party or political candidate.  Further, the entity should be very cautious about allowing the use of its website to contain links to any candidates’ websites or other partisan information. 

 

An example of conduct by the tax-exempt entity to be avoided is inviting a candidate for office to speak to a gathering at said entity.  The candidate may speak if the reason for speaking is unrelated to his or her candidacy, such as a civic speech, devotional etc.  It would be wise to document the reasons that the candidate was being allowed to speak.  Further, the candidate may speak only in a non-candidate capacity, with clear and thorough instructions beforehand.  No mention of the person’s candidacy or election may be made at the event.  No campaign activity whatsoever may occur at the event.  The event itself should have an entirely non-partisan tone.  Appropriate clarity should be evident throughout the event regarding the non-political purpose of the candidate’s appearance.

 

What are the consequences of a tax-exempt entity becoming directly or indirectly involved in a political campaign?  A tax-exempt entity that violates the political campaign activity prohibition is subject to losing its tax exempt status under IRC § 501(c)(3).  The ultimate penalty could be the loss of the tax-exempt status, although the Internal Revenue Service will often mete out less drastic measures.However, any investigation or lesser  punishment will cost the entity valuable time and money.  Any non-profit entity should steer well clear of unintended legal troubles that could derail its mission, create tax liabilities and damage its reputation.


The most effective way to guard against problems is for the entity to ensure that all officers, board members, staff, leaders and other workers involved with communications, including volunteers, are fully aware of the political campaign prohibition and its ramifications.  

Rodney Allen  


 Health Care Legislation and Your Church


The Health Care Reform Legislation (“Obamacare”) signed by President Barack Obama brings sweeping changes to the provision of health care in the United States.  The new law introduces for the first time, a mandate on certain companies, organizations, and non-profits to provide for insuring the health services of their workers.  The new law also imposes a mandate on individuals to obtain health insurance coverage on themselves and their families or be faced with a penalty in the form of a tax. 


Churches and other religious entities are also faced with new requirements that many faith organizations consider contrary to major tenants of their faith.


Importantly, churches and other entities with less than 50 employees will not be responsible for complying with the Health care mandate. 


One of the most controversial provisions in the new law, is the requirement that religious entities with more than 50 employees must provide for the abortion related health services unless they meet a few narrow  religious exemptions.  A religious organization with more than 50 employees can apply  to be excused from covering health procedures that are offensive to tenants of faith.


In light of the upcoming elections, some of the provisions of the new law could be repealed or amended, however your organization should be aware of the current requirements.If you work with a religious organization with greater than 50 employees and would like more information  please contact us.  

Chris West

Allen, Forehand & Adams:
lawyers helping families

We care about your family''s well-being and are committed to helping your family by providing trusted advice and extraordinary service to your family, business, and church. Combined, we have over 50 years of legal experience in a broad range of practice areas in courts all over the state of Georgia.

 

Rodney concentrates his practice on business organization, civil litigation, real estate, probate, and agricultural law matters. He attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Georgia, and is a member of the agricultural law section of the Georgia State Bar. He is a registered arbitrator and mediator. Rodney and his wife, Jean, have two adult sons ---- Mathew and John.

 

Jon concentrates on representing churches and non-profit organizations, and personal injury litigation, such as wrongful death, prescription-drug injuries, and automobile collision injuries. Jon is a graduate of Emmanuel College, Lee University, and the University of Georgia. He  completed a program  in risk management through the University of Cambridge. He is a member of the Christian Legal Society and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Jon serves as legal counsel for the South Georgia District of the Church of God and has served as the Board of Directors for the IPHC Extension Loan Fund, Inc., a multimillion-dollar investment and loan fund. Jon is a registered arbitrator and mediator. He and his wife Christine, have three children ----- Chason, David, and Jordan.

 

Chris concentrates in Real Estate, Civil Litigation, and Personal Injury matters. He received his undergraduate and Master’s Degree from Valdosta State University and his law degree from Faulkner University.  He has served in Washington D.C. for U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and worked in political elections at every level.  Chris is a Rotarian and a member of the Federalist Society.  He is also a registered mediator.  Chris and his wife Jenny have one newborn – Preston.  

HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?

  1. Our firm provides risk management information for churches and non-profit organizations. If you would like a free telephone or personal consultation, please contact us at 229-985-3912 or email us at allen.forehand@justice.com.
  2. Risk management and legal information for clergy and churches will soon be available on  blog at www.lawyershelpingfamilies.com. Please bookmark our website and check in frequently for new information.
  3. If you are not already receiving our free church law newsletter, please email us at allen.forehand@justice.com to subscribe.
  4. Our practice includes personal injury litigation, such as wrongful death, automobile collisions, product liability claims, including prescription drug injuries and nursing home abuse claims. Call our office for more information. If we cannot personally meet your needs, we can place you in contact with a lawyer who may be able to help your specific situation.
  5. Let us help with your dispute resolution needs. Our attorneys are registered with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution We have helped hundreds of people resolve their disputes without trial. Please feel free to contact us for more information about our mediation and arbitration services.



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622 Second Street, S.E.
Moultrie, Georgia 31768
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