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.
9:00 A.M.- 5:00 P.M.
*Member of the
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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 email@example.com.
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.
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
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.