Quote of the Day John Adams on Right to Jury Trial For Civil Suits



John Adams is rightfully celebrated as one of the most influential and intellectually powerful of our Founding Fathers, with achievements range far beyond serving as the second U.S. President, to assisting in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and personally drafting the Massachusetts state constitution; negotiating the peace treaty with Great Britain to end the War of Independence; and nominating George Washington to be the first President and John Marshall to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. More recently, he was the subject of historian David McCullough’s outstanding book and the terrific HBO mini-series. Adams became especially noteworthy in leading opposition to the Stamp Act of 1765, which the Crown unilaterally imposed as a tax on the American colonies. In a letter to the people of his hometown, Instructions of the Town of Braintree to Their Representative, Adams wrote of the inequity of the tax as a violation of the right to a jury trial: We shall confine ourselves, however, chiefly to the act of Parliament, commonly called the Stamp Act, by which a very burthensome, and, in our opinion, unconstitutional tax, is to be laid upon us all; and we subjected to numerous and enormous penalties, to be prosecuted, sued for, and recovered, at the option of an informer, in a court of admiralty, without a jury.

Two years later, Adams wrote a long letter to the Boston Evening Post, under the nom de plume of “the Earl of Clarendon,” in which he replied to a letter published three months earlier in a London newspaper. That letter purported to inform the American colonists that the British Parliament could overturn any of the personal liberties enjoyed by the Americans. Adams reminded the British of their centuries-old commitment, in the Magna Carta and British law, to “a grand division of constitutional powers” between the king and the people, the latter of whom are delegated powers including the following:

The people choose a grand jury, to make inquiry and presentment of crimes. Twelve of these must agree in finding the bill. And the petit jury must try the same fact over again, and find the person guilty, before he can be punished. Innocence, therefore, is so well protected in this wise constitution, that no man can be punished till twenty-four of his neighbors have said upon oath that he is guilty.So it is also in the trial of causes between party and party. No man’s property or liberty can be taken from him till twelve men in his neighborhood have said upon oath, that by laws of his own making it ought to be taken away, that is, that the facts are such as to fall within such laws.What a satisfaction is it to reflect, that he can lie under the imputation of no guilt, be subjected to no punishment, lose none of his property, or the necessaries, conveniencies, or ornaments of life, which indulgent Providence has showered around him, but by the judgment of his peers, his equals, his neighbors, men who know him and to whom he is known, who have no end to serve by punishing him, who wish to find him innocent, if charged with a crime, and are indifferent on which side the truth lies, if he disputes with his neighbor!

Conservatives who celebrate the life and contribution of John Adams should remember his dedication to the right, enumerated in the 7th Amendment, to a jury trial for civil suits, without any qualification or limit.

Quote of the Day Republican Congresswoman on Rights of Holocaust Survivors To Have Their Day in Court



Holocaust survivors, just like anyone else, should have the right to have their day in court to recover under their policiesIt is not in the interests of the United States to deny survivors their legal rights.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, testifying in a prepared statement before the House Judiciary Committee today at a hearing on H.R. 4596, the “Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act of 2010.” A global settlement of Holocaust-era insurance claims ended without payment to numerous victims, and the insurance industry is asserting federal preemption over any state court claims as a result of the settlement. The bill would block that preemption and enable Holocaust survivors to go to court and seek payment from those insurance policies purchased before or during World War II.

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s bill has 37 co-sponsors as of today, including a number of Congressmen who inconsistently support federal preemption of state statutory and common law in other areas. For instance, many of them are on record supporting federal preemption in regulation of implantable medical devices, with corporate immunity against any state court suit involving such life-saving medical devices as artifical limbs and heart pacemakers, as well as brain shunts, chest catheters, and insulin pumps. It’s commendable that these Congressmen are so supportive of the 7th Amendment rights of Holocaust survivors. But they should also stand with heart patients who need a pacemaker, or children who need a brain shunt, and the Congressmen should recognize the inconsistency of supporting federal preemption in one instance one day, and opposing it the next day. As Rep. Ros-Lehtinen noted in her statement, federal preemption with immunity strips Americans of their 7th Amendment rights. It also empowers federal judges and regulators in Washington, instead of local juries, and should be opposed in all instances.

House GOPs HR 5 Would Kill Tea Party Patriots Health Care Compact



I’ve posted often this year about H.R. 5, the “HEALTH Act,” which would pre-empt state health care laws and civil suits against doctors, hospitals, drug and device companies, insurance companies, and nursing homes. Just look at the archives: senior Republican Congressmen, a top Constitutional scholar, state legislators, and the coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots all say that the Constitution bars Congress from enacting federal tort reform, including the most sweeping health care-related preemption bill ever.

Now the Tea Party Patriots are fighting for the “Health Care Compact” as a way for states to take control of health care policy, instead of watching ObamaCare’s sweeping over-regulation. An e-mail from the TPP coordinators describe it this way:

The Health Care Compact is simply an interstate compact. Interstate compacts are essentially contracts between states, that, when approved by Congress, supersede federal law. Interstate compacts have been around since before the Constitution was written, and our Founding Fathers thought so highly of them that they included them in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 10), knowing that our states might someday need a mechanism to band together and take power back from the federal government.

There are over 200 interstate compacts in existence today, allowing states to regulate everything from selling life insurance across state lines to recognizing out-of-state drivers licenses.If an interstate compact imposes on existing federal law, the compact needs to be approved by Congress in an up-or-down vote. Congress is not allowed to amend the compact in any way; they can only vote yes or no.It is unclear at this time whether or not compacts require the President’s signature; however, we fully intend to draw a line in the sand and force President Obama to publicly pick a side, just in time for the 2012 elections.

The HCC gives the member states the power to reject every, single, unconstitutional page. The HCC simply states that member states are free from federal health care regulations, if they so choose. Very basically, it allows states to receive health care funding with zero strings attached. No more costly, intrusive, and unconstitutional mandates.

Notice the difference between H.R. 5 and the HCC in the handling of health care-related civil litigation. The former takes over those lawsuits from the states having no lawsuit limits, and it imposes damage caps from the federal level down. The HCC keeps Washington from assuming that power and reserves regulation of the civil justice system for the states, with no specific mandate limiting the right to a jury trial for civil suits. While H.R. 5 preempts state law, the text of the HCC explicitly condemns preemption and stresses states’ rights and the protection of individual liberty. H.R. 5 mandates a federal wage scale for attorneys who represent victims of health care negligence, while the HCC doesn’t attempt to impose such an un-American idea. It’s inherently pro-7th Amendment and pro-10th Amendment.

But note one special sentence in TPP’s description – something that could kill the HCC this year: If an interstate compact imposes on existing federal law, the compact needs to be approved by Congress in an up-or-down vote. So if Congress enacts H.R. 5 before the HCC is approved by two or more states, the states would have to fight tooth and nail for Congress to approve the HCC over H.R. 5, and I think that’s impossible politically. If the GOP leadership just moves H.R. 5 through the House alone, it will kill any backing by mainstream Republicans for the HCC.

The Tea Party Patriots and other backers of the Health Care Compact better recognize how quickly they could be pushed off the cliff by the forces of “Big Medicine” pushing for H.R. 5. They and their Congressional allies must tell House GOP leadership that H.R. 5 is inconsistent with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Dont Fast-Track Obamatrade aka Trans-Pacific Partnership



It would be hard to find the political positions on which conservatives such as former Congressman and retired Army Col. Allen West and Tea Party leader Judson Phillips agree with progressives such as Lori Wallach, director of the Global Trade Watch program at Public Citizen. So it’s noteworthy that they agree that Pres. Obama’s proposal for Congress to grant him fast-track authority to enact the Trans-Pacific Partnership mega-trade treaty could severely compromise our Constitutional rights to civil justice. Here are some quotes:

TPP would subject the U.S. to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals under the authority of the World Bank and United Nations. These unelected, unaccountable panels would constitute a judicial authority higher than the U.S. Supreme Court. They would have the power to overrule federal court rulings and order payment of U.S. tax dollars to enforce the special privileges granted to foreign firms that would be exempt from EPA and other regulations that strangle American firms.

Former Congressman and LTC. Allen West (USA, Ret.), writing on the Breitbart website.

TPP sells out American sovereignty, making American laws inferior to rulings by the World Bank and other international bodies, such as the United Nations. Americans who do business with foreign corporations will find their 7th Amendment rights to a civil jury trial are abrogated; American law will not apply.

Tea Party leader Judson Phillips in his piece, Trans Pacific Partnership – Obamatrade – worse for US than Obamacare, in the Washington Times.

And, yes, once again Fast Track is the key: as the governments of the other TPP countries have come to realize that U.S. negotiators are at odds with Congress on many aspects of the deal, they are loath of make concessions that will expose them to political wrath at home. The only thing worse than trading away your population’s access to affordable medicines, or submitting your nation to the authority of foreign tribunals that can demand unlimited payments from your national treasury, in exchange for the right to sell more dairy or sugar here is doing so and not getting your thirty pieces of silver.

Lori Wallach in Get Ready for the 2014 Trade Tsunami, on the Common Dreams website.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that Pres. Obama is pushing would override our constitutional rights to seek justice in our federal and state courts. This is international preemption of our laws – a real loss of sovereignty. It’s the equivalent of a giant international forced arbitration process, with individual Americans’ consumer rights crushed by a foreign tribunal. Constitutional conservatives and lawyers of all stripes should oppose this and tell Congress to resist it.

Col. West, Judson Phillips and Lori Wallach warn conservatives and progressives against first enacting fast-track trade authority, which would enable Pres. Obama to submit the TPP agreement to Congress for approval by a simple majority without amendment. All three understand the incredible impact that the TPP would have on American law and everyday life. Here’s Col. West:

President Obama wants fast track power so he can conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an expansive system of global governance that would deal a mortal blow to American sovereignty and our Constitution.

Fast track overrides the Constitution once — the Trans-Pacific Partnership overrides it forever.

TPP is billed a free trade agreement, but it is actually protectionism for Wall Street bailout banks, insurance and drug companies profiting off Obamacare, and the corporatists pushing open borders and amnesty under the rubric of “immigration reform.” The cronies with “access” in Washington are writing the deal while the rest of us are shut out.

Judson Phillips has another name for the entire process: Obamatrade. Fast-track and TPP are the Obamacare of trade treaties. Like Obamacare, the TPP has been drafted in secret with no Congressional debate, Congress would have to enact it for us to know everything it does, and it would override our constitutional rights.

But there’s one big difference between Obamatrade and Obamacare: the Democratic Party is split over Obamatrade. Labor unions, environmental groups, and civil justice advocates on the left know their interests would be crushed by the TPP. They’ve pushed numerous Democratic Members of Congress into opposing, or at least not supporting, fast-track authority and the TPP.

As they say, politics makes strange bedfellows. It’s time for conservatives to join with liberals to tell Obama to amend the TPP and submit it with full and open debate. Conservatives and progressives who cherish our independence and the Bill of Rights, including the 7th Amendment right to a civil jury trial, should heed warnings of these three experts and activists, contact Congress, and tell them to just say “NO!” to Obamatrade.

Paying For Medicare Services the Right Way



The Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) is the method enacted in 1997 to control spending by Medicare on physician services, and ensure that the yearly increase in the expense per Medicare beneficiary does not exceed the growth in GDP. Every year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission advise Congress on the previous year’s total expenditures and the needed adjustment in Medicare payments to doctors. For years, the calculation has resulted in a planned cut in payments, but Congress has repeatedly delayed the cuts. Congress and President Obama have delayed the implementation of the payment cuts several times, most recently until the end of February. On that date, it is estimated that the SGR will be a cut of at least 20% in payments. Physician groups, especially the American Medical Association, are lobbying for a permanent change to the SGR methodology, called the “doc fix” inside the Beltway, to prevent annual cuts.

I can understand the desire of the doctors’ groups to rationalize the process and avoid painful SGR cuts, which could result in an actual reduction in medical services for those who most need them. But already we’ve seen political allies of the AMA recommend that Congress pay for the “doc fix” by crushing the constitutional rights of all Americans and instituting sweeping nationwide limits on medical malpractice and health care-related lawsuits. Numerous conservatives and Tea Party-side legal experts have condemned any such federal tort reform law as an unconstitutional infringement on states’ and individual rights. That’s reason alone to not pursue that option.

But there’s another reason why Congress shouldn’t try to pay for the “doc fix” with medmal limits: the CBO’s estimates of revenues resulting from the institution of federal limits on medmal lawsuits are fatally flawed. The AMA and its allies continuously promote a CBO estimate, released during the ObamaCare debate, that medmal limits would save close to $60 billion over ten years. Here are the flaws in that estimate:

First, CBO not only has a lousy record of estimating ten-year budget deficits and projections of policy impacts, but it’s missed often on just year-to-year projections. It’s no wonder that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor accused the CBO of outright “budget gimmickry” in its calculations last year on the supposed “savings” that would result from enactment of the Affordable Care Act, or that Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner criticized CBO for predicting that repealing ObamaCare would cost $145 billion.

Second, CBO admitted in 2010 that it did not “consider the effect of tort reform on patient health and medical outcomes.” Remarkably, the CBO determined that “many studies of malpractice costs do not examine health outcomes.” In fact, implementing CBO’s projection of “savings” could actually result in more deaths and injuries. CBO admitted in its estimate that limits on medmal lawsuits could “an additional 4,853 Americans killed every year by medical malpractice, or 48,250 Americans over the ten-year period CBO examines.” And another 400,000 or more patients could be injured during the same 10 years. That’s not a cost that CBO can estimate, but it’s one we don’t want to bear.

Third, the CBO can’t estimate the impact that sweeping limits on medmal lawsuits would have on federal health care costs paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration. If someone is brain-damaged, mutilated or rendered paraplegic as a result of medical negligence, but cannot obtain compensation from the culpable party through the tort system, he or she may be forced to turn to those programs for compensation. None of these increased Medicaid or VA hospital costs are considered in the CBO estimate.

Whenever there is a successful medical malpractice lawsuit involving an elderly or poor person, Medicare and Medicaid can claim either an interest in whatever the patient recovers, so the victim reimburses the government for some of the health care expenditures. Without the lawsuit, Medicare and Medicaid will lose funds that the government would otherwise be able to recoup. And none of these lost funds are considered by the CBO. In fact, Congressmen and Senators of both parties are sponsoring legislation to improve that process and return even more revenue to the Treasury, but CBO still can’t count that money properly.

Fourth, CBO guesstimated that imposing federal lawsuit limits would result in a reduction in a drop in liability insurance premiums, but provided no raw data, explanations, or sources to back up its estimate. Numerous states have already imposed caps on medmal lawsuit damages, with no impact on personal health insurance premiums. In fact, a study by the Commonwealth Fund shows health insurance premiums rising rapidly in California since 2003, despite the state’s very tough limits on awards in health care-related lawsuits. CBO makes the assumption that Uncle Sam can wave a wand and magically force health insurance premiums to drop. How’s that one working out in California?

In conclusion: Anyone betting on federal lawsuit limits to pay for the “doc fix” is wasting their time. Not only is it unconstitutional, but it won’t raise real money and solve our budget problems. Congress should reject any proposal to impose federal limits on health care-related lawsuits, and instead spend its valuable time designing a constitutional and mathematically reliable “doc fix” solution.

Its Official Independent Gulf Oilspill Claims Fund Just Another BP Subsidiary



A ruling today by U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier proves what victims of the unprecedented Deepwater Horizon spill have claimed for months: the so-called “independent” Gulf Coast Claims Facility is anything but a neutral arbitrator or mediator (download complete ruling here and here is a link to the AP story on the ruling). In fact, the judge ruled that “BP has created a hybrid entity, rather than one that is fully independent of BP” and “the GCCF and Mr. Feinberg are not completely ‘neutral’ or independent from BP.” The judge cited the following facts in support of his conclusion:

1. “Mr. Feinberg was appointed by BP, without input from opposing claimants or the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, and without an order from the Court.”

2. “BP pays Mr. Feinberg and his law firm a flat fee each month, pursuant to a written contract which outlines his duties and responsibilities in great detail… This Contract is a private one between only BP and Feinberg Rozen, LLP-the United States is not a party to this Contract.”

3. “BP decided the amount and manner in which it funded the GCCF through this trust agreement.”

4. The GCCF “cannot reveal any confidential information relating to the GCCF without giving BP prior notice so that BP can seek a protective order; that all information gathered from claimants will be turned over to BP, with no restrictions as to its use.” (COMMENT: The claimants have no right of prior notice and cannot protect their privacy.)

5. “BP will ‘indemnify, defend, and hold harmless’ Feinberg Rozen, LLP from and against any and all threatened or commenced actions . . . that are threatened, asserted, brought, commenced, or sought by any person or entity . . . relating to or arising from the operation of the GCCF.

6. “BP may choose to allow Feinberg Rozen, LLP to ‘use and access certain of its computers, equipment, furniture, [and] properties.’ as well as “use and access certain facilities, properties, and offices owned or leased by BP.” (COMMENT: So Feinberg can use BP’s gym?!)

7. “Under the Contract, BP retains the ability to audit Feinberg Rozen, LLP as long as the firm retains information about claimants.” (COMMENT: The power to audit is the power to control.)

8. “In administering the GCCF, Feinberg Rozen, LLP agrees to comply with BP’s Code of Conduct and to refrain from subcontracting its obligations without prior written approval from BP.” (COMMENT: If I’m following someone else’s conduct mandates, I’m the employee.)

9. “In their releases of BP, the GCCF requires claimants to release and assign all rights or claims not only against BP, but against any other potentially liable party. Whether or not seeking such broad releases is appropriate, the GCCF is clearly acting to benefit BP in doing so. BP may appeal an award of the GCCF if it exceeds $500,000; appeals are decided by a three-judge panel and are binding only on BP.

10. “BP does retain some degree of control of payments from the GCCF fund, as evidenced by recent media reports that the GCCF was ordered by BP to pay a $10 million business claim which had never been reviewed by the GCCF for merit.”

Any normal person would describe this relationship between BP and the GCCF as that of a corporate parent to its subsidiary. That’s why the court decided that “certain precautions should be taken to protect the interests of claimants,” an extraordinary finding of a lack of confidence in Mr. Feinberg’s ability to remain neutral in fact and appearance. “Any claim of the GCCF’s neutrality and independence is misleading to putative class members and is a direct threat to this ongoing litigation,” continued the judge (emphasis mine). The judge imposed six measures on BP, the GCCF, and Mr. Feinberg and his firm, including ceasing any warning to claimants that they shouldn’t hire a lawyer.

Too often, the press treats Mr. Feinberg as if he is “forcing” BP to pay the thousands of Gulf Coast residents what’s due to them. Actually, he’s forced the victims to choose between their Constitutional right to sue BP in federal court or a final payment, determined in an arbitrary process with no appeal. The GCCF bears no resemblance to many of Mr. Feinberg’s other mediations; the 9-11 Victims Compensation Fund was entirely a creation of federal law, and Feinberg was truly an independent arbitrator. The GCCF has been rigged to minimize BP’s final payments to Gulf Coast residents.

Meanwhile the Senate has left the rig disaster victims out in the cold without their right to sue for non-economic damages, thanks to outdated federal laws enacted years before there were offshore oil operations. In contrast, the House recognized last July, by a unanimous voice vote, the reality of offshore oil rig and shipping accidents and allowed offshore rig victims to fully exercise their rights, just as oil rig workers hurt on land or in the air. The new Congress should enact a permanent fix to federal law to enable the victims to have their day in court.

House Judiciary Committee Exempts Constitutional Rights Lawsuits From Sanctions Bill



On March 10 and again on June 25, I reported on a bill numbered H.R. 966, the “Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act,” or LARA, part of the “tort reform” agenda. That bill would toughen Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, add disincentives to the filing of civil suits in federal courts, and supposedly prevent “frivolous lawsuits” through judicial sanctions on attorneys. The House Judiciary Committee acted on the bill today, voting on party lines to send it to the floor for full consideration by the House. But an amendment offered by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) to exempt claims based “on the Constitution” from the tougher sanctions won unanimous approval. The amendment would ensure that civil rights claims, such as those brought to protect religious liberty under the First Amendment, gun rights under the Second Amendment, or equal protection claims under the 14th Amendment, can pursued without fear of tougher sanctions. In my earlier posts, I expressed concern over LARA’s impact on litigation brought by social conservatives, so the amendment should ameliorate those concerns.

The amendment, however, creates a separate Rule 11 for those lawsuits, one completely different from those brought with some economic recovery at stake. I assume this will increase litigation over Rule 11 motions, as attorneys seek to avoid sanctions by claiming a nexus to the Constitution and judges use valuable court time to debate such motions. I’m not an expert in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, so I’m asking readers whether any other rule in the FRCP is so bifurcated between “Constitutional” and non-“Constitutional” claims. I will post the responses if you give me express permission.

Other issues with the bill remain as it heads to the floor. As I wrote in March, LARA is still “an unwise and unwarranted intrusion by the Legislative Branch into the independence of the Judicial Branch… LARA would impose Congress’ will on the FRCP without consideration by the Judiciary and public comment. Moreover, it mandates, rather than allows, federal judges to impose sanctions, thus substituting Congress’ judgment for the Judiciary’s.” House Republicans shouldn’t complain about “an overreaching judiciary” that “thwart(s) the will of the people and overturn(s) their votes and their values,” and then turn around and overturns standards for judicial decisions through LARA. The Judiciary obviously doesn’t want to change Rule 11, since the Judicial Conference hasn’t started any amendment proceeding.

There’s no need to toughen these sanctions and create two standards for attorney sanctions when federal judges don’t want to change current practice.

Citing the Founding Fathers While Crushing Rights They Protected



We have wandered too far off the path envisioned by our Founding Fathers of a government with few and defined powers. Government was supposed to be about doing only a few things; today government is about doing nearly everything. It has intruded in our business and personal lives in ways unimaginable to the wise men who gathered in Philadelphia in the sweltering summer of 1787. And to increasingly little positive benefit.”

Bravo, a noble sentiment which could stand atop the website of every Tea Party organization in America. It’s actually on a website of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and used to trumpet a new board game which shows the over-regulation of American business by the Obama Administration. I have no problem with the Chamber’s campaign to stop excessive regulation – I’m with them there.

But I have a big problem with any group that cites the Founding Fathers on one hand, then attacks the unalienable rights that the Founders fought to protect and enshrine in the Constitution. And the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the Chamber, works daily to degrade the right protected by the 7th Amendment to a jury trial for civil suits. The ILR has championed the overruling of state regulation of financial services, drugs, and medical devices in favor of more interference by federal bureaucrats. The Chamber apparently didn’t even consider the blatant inconsistency of calling for a return to the teachings of the Founding Fathers on one website, while advocating on another website to ignore what the Founders actually wrote about the civil justice process.

To make matters even worse, the ILR website includes the text of a 2008 story about “a re-enactment of the Constitutional Convention of Sept. 17, 1787, when James Wilson, a delegate from Pennsylvania, along with 54 others signed the U.S. Constitution.” The story makes a point of saying, “Equally important were the first 10 amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights, that guarantee the critical freedoms of speech, press, religion and the right to bear arms.” Funny, it doesn’t even mention the 7th Amendment right to a jury trial for civil suits, although James Madison, the Founding Father who pushed it through Congress to enactment by the states, thought that right was “as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature.” The omission would be funny if it didn’t involve a danger to our unalienable, God-given rights.

Even Tort Reform Proponents Oppose National Texas-Style Law



On September 12, Texas Governor Rick Perry called for federal tort reform during the GOP Presidential debate. “You want to talk about some powerful job creation, tell the trial lawyers to get out of your state and to quit costing businessmen and women. That’s what needs to happen in the states. and it’s also what needs to happen at the federal level, passing federal tort reform at those federal levels.” As I wrote on September 16, Gov. Perry now stands against some of the most respected Tea Party-side and conservative legal experts in America, who have written that a federal tort reform law is as unconstitutional as ObamaCare, and for the same reasons. But Gov. Perry also ignored two of the leading proponents of tort reform, who conceded months ago that a Texas-style national limit on medical malpractice lawsuits is clearly unconstitutional.

Walter Olson of the Cato Institute has been dubbed the “intellectual guru of tort reform.” He was previously a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and his writing appears regularly in all of the major newspapers and networks. But on May 24, Mr. Olson wrote that conservative and anti-ObamaCare Professor Randy Barnett of the Georgetown University law Center was right in stating that tort law is strictly a state power and not subject to federal oversight. A short segment of his concession post: “Thanks to star libertarian lawprof and Cato senior fellow Randy Barnett for pointing out something that has needed saying for a while: most proposals in the U.S. Congress to address medical malpractice law run into serious federalism problems. Most medical malpractice suits go forward in state courts under state law. If the U.S. Congress wishes to impose a nationwide rule on these suits, such as by limiting damages for pain and suffering, it first needs to answer the question: under which of the federal government’s constitutionally prescribed powers is it acting? Even if it can identify such authority, it should also ask: is it a wise idea–consistent with what one might call a prudential federalism–to gather yet more power in Washington at the expense of the states? Unfortunately, the backers of the current federal med-mal bill have chosen to rely on the Supreme Court’s very expansive “substantial effects” doctrine…”

Ted Frank, Adjunct Fellow with the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute, is described by the Wall Street Journal as a “leading tort-reform advocate.” He’s also the Editor of the pro-tort reform Point of Law blog; president of the Center for Class Action Fairness; has written for law reviews and numerous media outlets; and has testified before Congress multiple times. Mr. Frank is one of the chief theorists and spokepersons for the pro-tort reform movement. But also on May 24, Ted Frank conceded that Prof. Barnett and another conservative and anti-ObamaCare Professor, Ilya Somin of the George Mason University School of Law, were correct in their criticism of a federal tort reform law. Mr. Frank’s quote: “It’s easy enough for Congress to condition portions of Medicare block grants on a state establishing reasonable medical-malpractice litigation guidelines, or for Congress to prohibit certain types of lawsuits over federally-funded medical care. It doesn’t need to impermissibly federalize all medical malpractice litigation to accomplish reform.”

So the “intellectual guru of tort reform” says that a national, one-size-fits-all law killing medmal lawsuits would have “serious federalism problems,” while “a leading tort-reform advocate” says a Texas-style federal medmal law is “impermissible.” Between them and the five conservative legal experts, such as Randy Barnett, it looks like the case is closed.

Is Rick Perry listening? Maybe we’ll find out during the next GOP Presidential debate on Thursday. Personally, I’m not optimistic, since he ignored the writings of the five conservative legal experts and two pro-tort reform experts on the Internet months before he went nuclear on the subject.

Open Courtrooms For Religious Liberty AND Medmal Lawsuits



The Founding Fathers built a civil justice system designed to protect the God-given, unalienable right of all Americans to present their claims before a local jury. That right was enunciated centuries ago by Moses, when he decreed that a man whose property is damaged by a neighbor’s actions is entitled to punitive damages. That right to civil justice was protected by Article 39 of the Magna Carta, sealed in 1215, when English peasants forced King john to recognize God-given rights to self-government. That right was protected by our Founders in the 7th Amendment to the Constitution, introduced by James Madison during the first Congress, along with the other amendments in the Bill of Rights.

The Founders didn’t limit the exercise of that God-given right to certain causes or to one group of citizens over another group of citizens. As the shackles of racism and sexism were removed, all Americans were eventually afforded that right to seek justice before a jury for their claims. So trespass cases, medical malpractice claims, property rights claims, and lawsuits to protect religious liberty under the First Amendment are equal under the Constitution and Bill of Rights, just as each so if is equal in the eyes of God.

Today on the nationally syndicated What’s Up broadcast on Sirius Channel 131 and 12 radio stations, I discussed the fight for religious liberty brewing over the Obama Administration’s “compromise” on the mandate for insurers to provide contraceptives, some of which act as abortifacients. Those of us who own a business and are faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and non-Catholic business owners whose religious convictions oppose abortion, will find it impossible to reconcile that mandate with our religious convictions. Eventually, we might have to seek justice, and prevent the imposition of that mandate, by filing suit in federal court. In so doing, we would follow in the footsteps of our forefathers who sought protection from excessive power wielded by the sovereign, through an appeal in the halls of civil justice. Regardless of anyone’s views on the underlying issues, all Americans should respect the conscientious objections to certain types of medical services, and all Americans should respect the constitutionally protected right to defend such objections in a court of law.

You can download my audio interview from the What’s Up program:
Segment 1
Segment 2

Civil Suit Forces VA to Allow National Cemetery Prayers In Name of Jesus



Congratulations to the Liberty Institute for using the civil litigation process to successfully defend Pastor Scott Rainey’s right to pray “in Jesus’ name” at the Houston National Cemetery. In the process, they defeated a national effort by the Veterans’ Administration to stifle religious liberty at all national cemeteries, an outrageous action never before taken.

Here’s a great summary of the case facts from Fox News Radio: Rainey, the pastor of Living Word Church of the Nazarene, has delivered prayers at the Memorial Day service for the past two years. But this year the cemetery’s director asked him to submit his prayer in writing. The prayer concluded with the words, ‘in the name of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.’ Rainey told KRIV-TV that he was contacted four hours later by cemetery director Arleen Ocasio who told him to either remove the words or he would not be allowed to pray.

Rainey sued the VA, with litigators from the nonprofit Liberty Institute representing him. “It is very clear that a pastor has a right as a private citizen to speak his mind freely and not have the government censor or edit the content of his speech,’ said Jeff Mateer, general counsel of the Institute, who personally represented Rainey (quoted by Fox).

Trial lawyer Jared Woodfill, the chairman of the Harris County (Texas) Republican Party and the founding partner at Woodfill & Pressler LLP in Houston, rallied Harris County Republicans through a e-mail blast to county GOP members and the county GOP website to call the cemetery director and urge her to back off.

The judge ruled for Paster Rainey and issued a TRO against the cemetery. “The government cannot gag citizens when it says it is in the interest of national security, and it cannot do it in some bureaucrat’s notion of cultural homogeneity,” District Judge Lynn Hughes wrote. One day later, the VA caved, agreeing to not fight the TRO and allowing Pastor Rainey at pray as he planned. You can read the Liberty Institute’s lawsuit, the judge’s order, and the Institute’s press release at its website.

In an interview with Terry Lowry on his nationally syndicated ‘What’s Up’ radio program, Jared Woodfill discussed the case and the need for all Americans to protect their 1st Amendment rights by exercising their 7th Amendment right to a civil jury trial. He disclosed that VA headquarters was attempting to stop prayers at national cemeteries nationwide, not just in Houston, and the lawsuit apparently put a halt to that attempt.

Woodfill highlighted the importance of the right to a civil jury trial, as protected by the 7th Amendment. “Absolutely, obviously the 7th Amendment protections allowed the Liberty Institute to go into federal court and say, ‘Judge, we believe that this is unconstitutional, we believe this is a violation of this pastor’s First Amendment rights under the Establishment Clause.’ He reminded listeners of the importance of each of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights. “…(O)ur Founding Fathers were very purposeful and intentional when they drafted the Bill of Rights. And I believe that every single one of those ten amendments is sacrosanct… The federal government should not be stepping on those rights… If the courts are not open to redress grievances such as these, then the federal government will continue to trample upon our rights… the great thing about the 7th Amendment is that it allows the court system to be open to redress these very types of wrongs.” You can download and listen to the entire interview with Jared Woodfill from this link (MP3 file).

So there’s another victory for religious liberty thanks to the 7th Amendment and the trial lawyers at the Liberty Institute. Anybody want to “tort reform” them out of federal court? And a big thanks to Jared Woodfill, who demonstrates every day in his dual roles that a true Constitutional conservative can be a Republican activist and a successful trial lawyer.

UPDATE: I discussed this on the nationally syndicated ‘What’s Up’ radio program with host Terry Lowry. You can download and listen to the podcast using this link.

Being overly vocal about all of your vacations and trips and adventures in exotic places



Being overly vocal about all of your vacations and trips and adventures in exotic places

I don’t want to hear about your trip. I mean, maybe a little bit, and I’ll look at a maximum of ten to fifteen pictures, but thats’s really it. I don’t care. I’m sorry but I don’t. Mostly because you cannot stop mentioning all the places you’ve been at the slightest provocation. Oh that book was published in Tehran, I went there 4 years ago and it was great. Or, oh that restaurant has great Ethiopian food, when I was in Addis Ababa (had to look that up btw) the food was amazing! Listen, I make 50,000 dollars a year and I have more than that in student loans. I live in the most expensive city on the planet and I have a gene that doesn’t allow me to date or be interested in anyone financially responsible. I don’t play the lottery (on the list!) and have no inheritance or trust fund waiting for me. I have no hope of going to bazaars in Morocco or to be able to swim with sharks in Belize. I would be happy to go to the Catskills for the weekend. All of your travels are great but really, keep it to a minimum, otherwise you are on the list.

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Asking If This Is The Line For The Bathroom



Somehow you are able to get out of bed every morning, put one foot in front of the other and walk into the kitchen, make yourself some food and then take the subway downtown where you work as an administrative assistant. A lot of decisions need to be made in the process, decisions which require analysis. So it’s rather baffling that, when confronted with a group of people standing in a row outside two doors that are clearly marked “RESTROOM”, you need to ask “Is this the line for the bathroom?”.

No one answers you, because they are annoyed with your stupidity. You ask again.

What else would this be? Does this look like a cool place to hang out? This tiny, smelly, dark hallway? Does it look like the people standing in this row are talking to each other, or even that they know each other at all?

It requires exactly 1.5 seconds of analysis to determine that yes, this is indeed the line for the bathroom, and there’s no need to bother anyone with your maddeningly thoughtless, needless question.

Just a look around. Take a second to see if you can answer the question yourself. The answer is right there in front of you. Just because you are able to ask the question doesn’t mean you have to. It is the line for the bathroom.

Put it on the list.

WHAT THE FUCK DOES A SMALL CITY COP DO ALL DAY



One of my friends is a cop. For reasons that are probably easily surmised, we don’t hang out much anymore. He’s actually a really sweet guy — or he was last time I saw him like two years ago when we sat next to each other at our other friends’ wedding and I was worried he was gonna figure out I was fucked up the entire time.

SBTVC: So, dude, what the fuck do you even do all day?

SMALL CITY COP: What the fuck do I do all day? Short answer is, I am 5-oh, the fuzz, a cop, you know, the Po-lice. Long answer: My day starts at midnight and I work till 8 A.M.. I drive a Crown Vic Interceptor, carry a Sig Sauer, P226 DAK, wear a bulletproof vest, slap cuffs on people, and manage everything from fender benders to major crime scenes. I have to always be aware of my surroundings and am just as fearful of getting sued as I am of getting shot.

My shift starts with a stop at a Dunkin Donuts, then I make rounds through neighborhoods, shopping plazas and industrial parks hunting for criminals, drunk drivers, and vagrants. At about 3 A.M., I find a nice quiet place to settle in and read a book or work on reports, waiting for the radio to send me on a call. At about 5:30 I start rolling again. This time I am looking for traffic offenders. I sit at several different locations either running radar on a speed trap or watching school buses pick up children. Sometimes I swing through the train station lot and eyeball the hot chicks walking to the commuter rail. Spring is the best. I always see at least one girl wearing a blouse or T-shirt on a day when she should have paired it with a jacket. Hard nips and side boob are two of my favorite things.

You ever seen something you will never be able to un-see? How often do you want to puke your fucking guts out?

I’ve seen some pretty fucked up shit. I have seen grown men cry like babies and poop their pants. I’ve seen 2-year-olds walking by themselves on the sidewalk, in their diaper, in the winter. I’ve seen brains, blood, and death at car crashes, all kinds of drugs and drug paraphernalia, fights, car wrecks, hangings, and even a woman slice open her stomach in front of me. But the weirdest shit I have seen has to be when I walked into this shit-hole triple-decker apartment, I mean a real shit-hole that houses druggies.

No way.

This shit-hole is such a shit-hole that your feet stick to the floor, you step around garbage and over old blood stains when you enter. I had to go to the second floor to break up a fight. When I walked into one of the bedrooms to interview one of the participants, I found a fucked up looking red-headed dirt-bag female in her 40s fingering herself and watching porn while holding a hand towel on her forehead that was covering a gaping flesh wound. She had been hit over the head by her boyfriend/pimp/roommate for God knows what, but refused to press charges and refused to stop pleasuring herself.

Yikes. Am I the only one kind of turned on right now? So how do you work up the will to get out of bed every day knowing you have to go to work? Or do you actually look forward to it?

Despite all that, I look forward to going to work every day. I like knowing that I am helping someone, in some way, every day, just by going to work. Even doing nothing all day amounts to some protection for someone. I can slow traffic just by parking at an intersection, and save lives by taking drunks off the road. Last year I won the MADD award from Moms Against Drunk Driving, and that was justification enough.

How awful are the people you deal with every day?

I tell people I come in contact with that there are only two types of people out after midnight: cops and assholes. Generally, in my city, that is true. If I am talking to you after midnight and before 5 A.M., it’s because you are an asshole, or you were put in a position to call me because of an asshole. Of course, not everyone out after midnight is an asshole, but most of the people I talk to are. No one respects the police, and generally, when I get called to a scene, 50% of the people involved don’t want me there.

I’m pretty sure 90% of people anywhere at any hour are assholes. Good point though. So what’s something about your job that no one really knows that you think people would give a shit about?

We don’t have quotas and aren’t out to get you. I try to treat people with as much respect as is given to me, and I’d rather write you a warning than a citation. Your attitude and your choices determine my response. Treat me with respect, remain apologetic and polite, and you are all set.

SBTVC

Acting Shocked Off Your Tits When Someone Youre Friends With Online Says Hi In Person




Forthwith: If you’re my “friend” on the lines, and you see me in public — especially if we communicate, comment on each other’s shit on a regular basis, etc… — then you are obligated to muster up the courage to put together some semblance of a giving a shit face when you accidentally stumble across my ghastly IRL visage, k? k.

I know I probably look better in theory online — you know, when you don’t have to stare at me for more than 20 seconds, or smell me, or listen to me try to stitch together an awkward, impromptu comedy bit /getting to know you routine on the fly — but that’s just tough shit. I don’t really want to talk to you either, but you should have thought of that when you added me so you could send me some pitch about the band you aren’t in any more like 6 years ago.

Be a real person for once. Look me in the eye, say something weird that makes all of us uncomfortable, then make some sign language hand motion that indicates you’re gonna go smoke/get a drink/ talk to someone more important over there. That’s just basic manners.

Asking to Talk to the Manager




I’m no child psychologist, but I am what you might call an expert on assholes, so I’ve done some extensive research in the field of tattling. A couple key points to consider:

Basically a lot of the literature out there asserts that tattling is a way for children to receive attention. Attention-craving children will try to receive attention any way they can, even at the risk of doing something that they may otherwise know to be wrong. Furthermore, focusing attention on the tattler only encourages this behavior. By giving into the demand for attention that the tattler is looking for, you may give them the idea that this is a real way to become fulfilled.

It can also be about a grab for power as well; a means to get revenge on another child who they feel has wronged them in some way. “It is a quest for power, and tattling fills that inner need. These children long to see another child punished or perhaps delight in how they have managed to control the adult’s reaction,” says Jennifer White, some author I just looked up five seconds ago who writes about this sort of thing.

“At other times, tattling reflects children’s self esteem issues,” she continues. “Children may lack the confidence to handle the situation independently. Further, by getting another child into trouble it makes them feel better about their own shortcomings…

A final reason for chronic tattling reveals the deeper issue of children’s lack of independent conflict resolution skills. These children have no other strategies to deal with undesirable peer behaviors, and so look toward the adult to resolve the problem. Their limited skills necessitate intervention from adults, rather than relying on internal strategies to resolve peer issues. These children would benefit from peer mediation and conflict resolution training.”

An introductory course to getting your new church off the ground



by John Ratliff

By John Ratliff

I recently met with a minister who had been told I was a CPA that helped small
churches. She and two other ministers had recently started a church, and the
administrative duties became her responsibility. Among her many questions were, “How
do I start a new church?” This article is a summary of our resulting discussion. It
is aimed at the independent church growing rapidly in the United States today.

The Word says, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there will I
be also.” If these few meet on a regular basis, you have a church. The IRS Code
states that any organization claiming to be a church is a church. The courts have
further defined a church as a body of believers that assembles regularly in order to
worship. Other criteria include a recognized tenet of belief; creed and form of worship; a
formal code of doctrine and discipline; a defined ecclesiastical governing structure; an
established place of worship; schools or training for its members and ministers; and
others. The IRS generally applies a list of church characteristics developed over the
years by the courts and the commissioner when deciding the propriety of an organization.

Employer identification number. The first official step in starting a church is
application for an employer identification number (EIN). This establishes the church as an
entity with the IRS and subjects the church to Federal laws regarding reporting of wages
and collection of taxes. An EIN can be obtained by filing Form SS-4 with the IRS. This can
be done by letter, phone, fax or E-mail. Call the toll free number of your regional IRS
service center in your phone book, and an IRS representative will give you information on
how to obtain the EIN number.

Some ministers have mistakenly understood that the receipt of the EIN is the tax
exemption certificate that is discussed below. Other ministers have refused to obtain the
EIN on the grounds that it violates the separation of church and state doctrine. The
granting of tax exempt status is one of legislative enactment, not a fundamental right
under the First Amendment. Congress has provided a means of allowing a religious
organization to operate freely in matters of doctrine and worship while requiring it to
adhere to laws concerning reporting of wages and taxes. Congress has also granted two huge
benefits to churches, that of allowing contributions to be tax deductible to the
contributor, and the ability of churches to accumulate capital without taxation.

Tax exemption certificate. A church does not have to apply to the IRS for
501(C)(3) status and is not required to obtain IRS recognition of their tax-exempt
status. Once a group begins meeting regularly, it becomes a church in the eyes of the IRS
and is exempt under 501(C)(3). The church may apply for tax exempt status in order
to be able to assure its members and the public that contributions are tax deductible,
particularly if it will be obtaining grants or contributions from corporate or other
tax-exempt organizations. Churches affiliated with a denomination or other order can
simply apply for church status under a group exemption of the governing organization. The
application for tax exempt status (Form 1023) is a lengthy questionnaire prepared and
filed with the IRS. It details the beliefs and activities of the church in order for the
IRS to determine that the church’s activities meet the tax-exempt standards.

Incorporation. A church is not required to incorporate, although it is generally
advisable. Incorporation creates a distinct legal entity which is able to transact
business and provides protection to the officers of the church when they sign legal
documents acting on behalf of the church. A member of an incorporated church is protected
from liability of the debts of the incorporated church. Members of an unincorporated
church may look to protection from the debts of the church under the Uniform
Unincorporated Nonprofit Association Act in states where adopted. However, this statute is
subject to tests in the courts as to its interpretation and enforceability. Being
incorporated makes it easier for an organization to transact commercial business. Many
lenders require incorporation in order to grant loans.

Records. Federal (and some state) laws require churches to comply with payroll
tax and employment reporting obligations. In addition, contributions are deductible to
donors only if they meet certain substantiation requirements that impose certain
record-keeping and reporting requirements on churches.

A new church should call its local IRS office and obtain Publication 15, Circular E,
Employer’s Tax Guide
, an invaluable resource for understanding employer
responsibilities. Amounts paid to individuals for services rendered must be reported to
the IRS as wages and in most cases, taxes must be withhold and remitted to the government.
Circular E contains the various income tax withholding tables and explains the
rules for filing the quarterly Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.
It also explains the thresholds for timely deposit of taxes withheld. Many churches incur
penalties for untimely remitting of taxes. The penalty for failure to make timely deposits
can be as much as 15% of the late taxes.

Some church administrators think they can designate persons as independent contractors,
thereby saving the matching social security and Medicare taxes. Publication 15-A, Employer’s
Supplemental Tax Guide
is helpful in defining employees and independent contractors.
Publication 517, Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy and
Religious Workers
covers several issues relating to the collection of social security
tax from members of the clergy and certain income tax rules of interest to the clergy.
Employers should become familiar with the documentation requirements for all employees,
such as INS Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, Form W-4, Employee’s
Withholding Allowance Certificate
, and many others. Social security taxes, Medicare
taxes and withheld income tax are reported and sometimes paid together on Form 941, due 30
days after the end of each quarter. Form 941 can also be filed by telephone by following
the TeleFile materials received with the Form 941. Deposits of withheld taxes are made
weekly, monthly or quarterly depending on the amount. Most churches will be required to
file the annual Form W-2 for wages earned by employees and Form 1099-MISC for payments to
non-employees.

In most states, churches must register with the Workforce Commission (or similar state
agency). The Commission will assign the church an account number and send forms for the
church to complete. In some states, churches are not required to carry worker’s
compensation insurance. The church should inquire with its state agency about the required
forms to be filed, notices to be given to employees or posted in the workplace, and
record-keeping requirements. There can be stiff penalties for noncompliance with state
laws.

All disbursements made by the church must be documented by receipts or other
documentation clearly demonstrating that the expenditure was made for activities
consistent with the tax-exempt purpose. The “five W’s” is a simple way to
remember the requirements: who, what, when, why and where.

Contributions to churches are deductible to the donor only if they satisfy certain
conditions. One major condition is that the donor must be able to substantiate the
contribution, usually by a receipt from a church. The substantiation requirement depends
on the size and nature of the contribution (cash vs. property). The church should receipt
cash contributions at least annually. The church may not acknowledge a value or assign a
value to property contributed to the church. However, it may (and should) acknowledge
receipt of the property. Donors contributing property (other than listed stocks and bonds)
in excess of $5,000 should submit Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to
the church. If the church disposes of the property within two years of date of receipt,
the church must file Form 8282, Donee Information Return. Form 8282 reports the
subsequent sale and sales price of the property to the IRS.

Another condition is that the contribution must be unconditional and for the general
use of the church. Designated contributions may not be deductible to the donor. If the
designation is for an approved program or project of the church, the contribution is
deductible. If the designation is for an individual, in most cases the contribution is not
deductible. Contributions must be under the full administrative control of the church in
order to qualify for deduction. The rules for designated contributions are complex and
must be understood by the church in order to receipt contributions lawfully.

The discussion documented above is intended to be a general guide to organizing a new
church and is not intended to be all-inclusive. It is hoped that it will generate an
awareness of the various details that must be addressed so that the minister will not be
unaware of situations that could bring exposure to the church. A general awareness should
motivate the minister to seek professional help when unusual events occur. Ignorance of
the law is not a defense, and forgiveness is generally not in the tenets of belief of the
government.

John Ratliff, CPA, is an audit manager with Pickens, Snodgrass, Koch & Company,
P.C., in Arlington, TX. His practice is predominately with churches and ministries.

American Donations to Charity Highest in the South



10/04/2007

Empty tomb, a Christian research and service organization, will release a new book that analyzes 2005 charitable giving data. The book, set to come out later this month on October 15, centers around findings from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey.

Among those findings are that giving to charity is the highest in the South and the lowest in the Northeast. Church giving on the whole was up in 2005. Americans also reported that 72 percent of their giving was directed to church and religious organizations. Denominations spent 2.2 cents on overseas missions for each dollar contributed.

The book is titled “The State of Church Giving through 2005: Abolition of the Institutional Enslavement of Overseas Missions,” and written by John and Sylvia Ronsvalle.

The empty tomb analysis can be found by clicking here.


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5 Signs of an Effective Congregation



5 Signs of an Effective Congregation

Though churches are always looking for danger signs within – what’s going wrong, who is not being reached, etc. – sometimes the most constructive thing to do is to look at what is working or to look at other congregations and see what’s working for them.

Bill Tenny-Brittian identifies five marks of effective congregation on his blog. Among them:

  • Plenty of invited guests
  • Spontaneous ministries springing up from laypeople who want to lead them
  • Consistent number of adult baptisms

To read the other two, along with full analysis from the writer, visit the source.

Source:

Consulting, Coaching & Chatter: Five Marks of an Effective Congregation

Related Content:

Consulting, Coaching & Chatter: Five Marks of an Effective Congregation


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11 Tips for Pastors Who Want to Build a Church Top 11 Things Pastors Wish They Knew Before Building



by Kurt Williams

Continued from

page 1

6. Managing Expectations – The Wants of the People vs. Budget

Pastors consistently noted that the expectations of the congregation were typically unrealistic in several areas. Facility modeling can help establish the expectations of the church as it relates to the amount of square footage needed to support the ministry, the costs associated with building the space, and the desired materials. Tools in the market can help you establish ballpark assessments of your ministry needs. Facility modeling is best done with the key leadership of your church. The key leaders typically have the best grasp of ministry needs (not wants) to support the vision and mission of the church. With this information, an early assessment of the size of the facility can be established, along with a preliminary budget to construct the facility. Make sure that you have a complete budget from a builder that includes not only the construction costs, but also the design and engineering, site work, fixtures and furnishings that will be needed once the facility is complete. Aligning ministry needs for building space with the ability to finance may seem obvious, but it’s often left out. The typical church has the $5 million vision and the $2 million ability to fund it. The time to adjust the expectations of the church is now. Before actually getting into the pre-construction phases of your process, you need to come to grips with the financial fact that you will probably not be able to build your entire vision in the first phase. Good expectation management will keep your building team on the right track from the beginning and keep them focused on the priorities of your ministry vision.

7. Stewardship Choices – Cheap Decisions Today Will Cost Tomorrow

There is a saying that the only place a building can be built under budget and with the best of all materials is in a building committee meeting. There will always be tension between the square footage needed for ministry, the funds available to build with and the quality of the materials you might use. A common crisis that churches face is too much building, not enough money.

Under the premise of stewardship, many churches will use cheaper materials so as to not decrease the size of the building. The National Association of Church Facility Managers has determined that in the first 40 years of a church facility’s life, the total costs involved with the project breakdown are as follows:

75 percent for maintenance, upkeep and repair

14.5 percent for finance costs and interest

10 percent for building construction costs

.5 percent for building contractor fees

A stewardship decision today often equates to a financial burden for the next generation. Every pastor surveyed who had been involved with choosing a cheaper material later regretted the decision. Make sure that all present and future costs are taken into account when wrestling with the balance of ministry space, money and materials.

8. Property Issues – The Requirements and Time Involved to Build on the Land

Many a pastor has been involved with the donation or purchase of the perfect piece of ground for the church. The due diligence part of any land purchase can make or break a deal. With the church, it is absolutely critical. Several factors affect the actual amount of land usable for construction. It is during a site analysis that churches may find that they cannot meet the growth of their ministry at their current location and need to acquire adjoining property or investigate relocation.

A detailed site challenge analysis will supply information that is absolutely critical in the development of the master plan, as well as establishing the costs involved in developing the property. Key issues that a site challenge analysis should address include zoning, neighborhood issues and requirements/covenants, permit fees and restrictions, parking requirements, egress/ingress issues, right-of-way expansion, easements and set backs, landscaping and green space requirements, topography, wetlands, flood plains/flood ways, storm water retention, water and sewer/well and septic requirements, and environmental hazards and concerns.

A comprehensive site master plan should be part of the ministry plan for your property; some might even call this a vision plan. Master planning is a topic all to itself. It suffices to say that a master plan showing land development out to five, seven and 10 years should be clearly defined prior to breaking ground on the first phase. Pastors have been surprised many years later how a simple mistake made 10 years ago in the middle of their 20-acre parcel of land has hampered their future building plans or cost them significant amounts of money to rectify.

9. Building Codes – The State and Local Requirements to Build

The number of requirements and the costs associated with compliance to meet the building code were surprises to most pastors. Though the burden to meet the building code requirements fell on the designer, the costs associated with them became the burden of the church. Some codes such as the American Disabilities Act are fairly well-known and easy to comply with. Other codes dealing with issues such as wind loads, snow loads, dead loads and live loads are less obvious, but very important for the design and regulatory approvals by your state and local building permit office. Other important issues that your designer should be familiar with are the codes regarding insulation and ventilation, fire sprinklers, plumbing, HVAC (heating and cooling) and electrical. Each area of the country has unique adaptations of the major national building codes that have been changed for that specific geography or fire concern. Make sure that your team is familiar and has experience with your locale.

10. Building Plans – Can You Read and Understand the Plans?

Almost every pastor struggled with understanding or reading the building plans. In every situation, the design-builder reviewed the plans, page by page, but much of the detail was lost. Pastors that asked the design-builder to slow down or explain in more detail came to understand very important elements of the design. The surveyed pastors advised having the building committee chairman (not the pastor) familiar with the plans and all of the details of the project, as well as having an open, trusting relationship with the builder. This allowed the pastor and the building chairman to relax about the finer points of the plans and to rely on the expertise of their design-build team for a good result.

11. Kicking the People Out – The Building Is Not the Destination

Pastors thought there was a tendency to stop and relax after the building project was complete. Some felt their congregations stopped all together because the goal – the building – was complete. The building is not the destination; it is simply a tool for ministry. More than a few of the pastors referred to “kicking people out” of the building to reach out to others in need of the Gospel. A building project can be tiring, and a time of celebration and relaxation is to be encouraged and expected. Reminding the people from the very beginning of the process that the building is actually for reaching out to others tends to lessen the downtime that the congregations needed before getting out and sharing the excitement of their new building with others in the community.

Every building project is an adventure. Partnering with those who have a heart to serve the Lord can make what could be a time of ministry distraction a time of ministry focus. Challenges happen, but with the wisdom of others who have survived the building process and the advice of kingdom-minded design and build professionals, those challenges can be greatly reduced.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22

“Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding.” – Proverbs 3:13

Kurt Williams is a design-build veteran at T&W Church Solutions (www.tw-church.com). He’s spent more than two decades in the industry, 18 of those years guiding more than 90 churches through the various stages of discovering, designing and building their new facilities. T&W Corp. serves the churches of Central Indiana and is an active contributing member of the NACDB. Williams can be reached at [email protected].

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Arguing with God



MONTREAT, N.C. – Prof. Dan Migliore is worried that Christians may be neglecting their prayers.

Not their prayers of praise or thanksgiving, but their prayers of lament – those that articulate anguish, or, like the psalmists of old, take God to task for being silent when the world is hurting so deeply.

That’s what Migliore told his listeners in a workshop titled, “The Prayer of Lament in Christian Theology,” one of 23 offerings during the Montreat Conference Center’s third annual “Reclaiming the Text” Conference, which focused this year on Recovering the Language of Lament.

“My basic concern.is for freedom and honesty of prayer, and all that this freedom implies for our understandings of God and ourselves,’ said Migliore, a systematic theologian at Princeton Theological Seminary. “If in Christian life we cannot express our doubts, our faith will be half-hearted. If we cannot shed tears over waste and loss, our laughter will be hollow. If we cannot express outrage against injustice, our commitment to God’s reign will be lukewarm.

“If we cannot argue with God, we cannot be brought to deeper understanding.”

But even Migliore agrees that arguing with God is easier said than done.

The Jewish spiritual tradition of arguing with God, depicted in memorable accounts of Biblical quarrels involving Abraham and Job, among others, has largely disappeared in Christian spirituality and prayer.

The lament-laden Psalter – full as it is of cries of loss and anger, and even a thirst for revenge – was suspect in the judgments of Augustine and Luther. Calvin also put more emphasis on patient endurance of suffering than on protests of God’s absence in times of despair and loss.

They rejected the ages-old tradition of questioning God and complaining that He ought to “act like God” and start remedying the suffering and injustice that shatter lives.

Yet the Biblical tradition, in Migliore’s view, holds that the people of God may protest injustice and urge God to act to end suffering -not just as individuals, but as communities of faith. The covenant itself creates space for such prayers.

“When events seem to challenge the validity of the covenant promises, when sufferings that endured seem far to exceed what could be construed as discipline or training or chastisement; when the God of the covenant is experienced as painfully silent or deeply hidden in the midst of outrageous evil; (then) the people of God cry out in their loneliness and sense of abandonment,” he said. “Some may dare to argue with God. However difficult it may be for us to grasp, in the Biblical understanding of the covenant relationship between God and God’s people, arguing with God in times of distress.has it’s rightful place.”

Migliore based his comments on his earlier paper, “Arguing with God: Resistance and Relinquishment in the Life of Faith.”

Asking God to act, he said, is for humanity’s sake and for God’s sake as well.

“Injustice, violence and death contradict the character and purpose of God. When evil, injustice and death prevail in the world created and ruled by God, it is not only humanity that suffers, but also the glory of God that suffers,” he said.

For the rest of the story, visit Worldwide Faith News, www.wfn.org.

A NEW PARADIGM FOR WORSHIP SPACE



FACILITIES 2.0

A NEW PARADIGM FOR WORSHIP SPACE

FACILITIES 2.0
A NEW PARADIGM FOR WORSHIP SPACE

CHANCES ARE THE CULTURAL climate has changed a lot since your church undertook its last building project. Americans are more overcommitted than ever, and multinational corporations have done an excellent job at co-opting what little time, money and attention we have to spare. And so, when developing the plan for a new building, a ministry would do well to consider just what type of building would best serve to engage and inspire its local community.

Call it Facilities 2.0, Third Place, The Emergent Church or Postmodern Church. Whatever label you choose, the philosophy is the same: working to re-engage an increasingly over-stimulated and misdirected population.

“Shoppers now through and through, we think about religion like we think about a new sweater,” author David W. Henderson hypothesizes in his book “Culture Shift.” “The people with whom we desire to share the gospel have become reluctant buyers of the faith, guarded shoppers casually browsing through the religious options in search of something that fits.”

This analogy applies not only to seekers, but to believers without a church home and even to your current congregation. Ministries must actively and tirelessly work to remain relevant to the lives of those around them if they wish to survive. The single most effective technique for doing this is to apply some forward-thinking in the design of a new facility. It is important to remember, however, that it is more about having a clear and focused vision, and less about spending lots of money on all the latest-and-greatest bells and whistles.

“When you look at the statistics for the American church, massive amounts of money have been spent on church buildings (more than $8 billion last year alone), and yet less people overall are attending church,” states James R. Couchenour of design-build firm Cogun, based in North Lima, Ohio. “It seems that the same methods that may have worked in the ’80s and ’90s are no longer connecting with post-Christian/postmodern people.”

The new method should be interactive and focus on the needs of the community, argues Kester Brewin, author of “Signs of Emergence.” “Malcolm McLaren recently encouraged people to seek refuge in churches because they were the only places left in our cities where there were no advertisements and where demands were not made of us to buy stuff. Churches must aspire to become centers of gift exchange in the broadest sense.” What this means is creating a very open, adaptable space that encourages congregants to share their talents and forge personal connections. This represents a major change in church-design philosophy, and takes some careful and creative thought.

“Shaping an environment where people naturally connect is more like creating art than manufacturing a product,” advises Joseph R. Myers, author of “Organic Community.” “It marks a major shift: from programming community to using principles of organic order to develop an environment where community can emerge.”

Sound a little vague? That’s because the recipe for success for this type of project depends solely on the personality of the congregation and surrounding community. “In most cases, churches will design based on history, or another church facility they liked,” Couchenour affirms. “We’re suggesting leaders begin with who God has called them to reach since this is unique to every ministry. We feel it’s essential to discover their particular DNA to see how God has uniquely blessed their body of believers. A church has to really know itself and its community before it can begin designing facilities for the future.”

Greg Lefler of Camarillo, Calif.- based Lefler and Associates reports that although each church’s incarnation of the postmodern church will look different, there are some guidelines that can help mark the path.

“The Changing Face of Churches” advises:

  • Maximize what you already have 
  • Plan for growth 
  • Make it multifunctional 
  • Get your money’s worth 
  • Turn up the technology 

Lefler points out that this type of project can be a difficult one for traditional building firms. “As churches demand spaces that are cost-efficient, technologically advanced and multifunctional, builders may have to stretch beyond their usual areas of expertise.”

With a little bit of collaboration and imagination, however, most projects succeed brilliantly. “An example of this is a church in Austin that grew rapidly with the tagline ‘No perfect people allowed.’ They were a home for artists, de-churched and others who didn’t seem to fit into the traditional church crowd. This was reflected in their original building that had been retrofitted and pieced together for their ministry style,” Couchenour recalls. “After they built their new building, they found exciting new ways of communicating the same ‘come as you are’ ideal in a new, clean, state-of-the-art facility.”

Brewin suggests providing a diverse array of spaces that could fit a variety of needs in order to fish out a particular congregation’s talents. “They should provide hanging spaces for artists, venues for music of all types, forums for discussion and debates, classes for expectant mothers … whatever gifts there are in the local community.”

Couchenhour warns that although this type of planning leaves a lot to the imagination, it is important to remain thoughtful and deliberate when making the nuts-and-bolts decisions. “Churches need to be very intentional about this kind of space. It has to be more than an area for their own people to gather if the idea is to connect with the unchurched. It takes a commitment to provide connection space if you want to open it up to the community in which God has placed you. It may require paid staff, longer hours, and could even have tax implications.”


West Ridge Community Church, Elgin, Ill.

West Ridge Community Church executed the Facilities 2.0 concept flawlessly. The nine-year-old ministry moved from its digs at the local community college into its state-of-the-art custom facility earlier this year, and the result has been overwhelming. In the first week alone, the Sunday service attendance doubled and has been steadily growing ever since.

Church leaders attribute the success to the forward-thinking design brought to life by Professional Building Services, based in Crete, Ill.

“We decided to start a church for people who don’t like church, a church where people can feel free to be authentic, to be real, and that’s an overriding theme of what we do,” Pastor Darren Sloniger shares.

The worship space itself was crafted to evoke a nightclub feel, with a dimly lit sanctuary constructed in the shape of a piano flanked by cafe tables, couches and comfy chairs. Congregants also enjoy the church’s full-fledged coffeehouse with uniformed baristas, muffins and even fresh paninis.

“The goal was really to build a community of people, an extraordinary community of people that could experience the love of God through Christ in a way that very few other places could offer. So my prayer for you today … is continue to make this place a place where other people can come and see the mercy of Jesus. That’s becoming more and more rare today,” said guest speaker Gordon Venturella at the facility’s grand opening.


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4 Components of Church Growth



4 Components of Church Growth

If you want your church to grow, you have to determine if your church has value to the local community – that is, if your church vanished today, would anyone outside of your church care?

This is the hard question church consultant Anthony Coppedge poses on his blog. He adds that there is always something else a church can be doing to serve its community, and that service often leads to growth. Here are the four components of growth. Coppedge calls them “the four C’s”:

  1. Change
  2. Cost
  3. Control
  4. Commitment

To read the breakdown and analysis of these four components, visit the source.

Source:

AnthonyCoppedge.com: Four C’s of Growth: Part 1

Related Content:

Develop an Online Communications Strategy : Equip your team


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A Guide to Projector and Screen Selection for Small Spaces



by Jennifer Andrews

Little Light
A Guide to Projector and Screen Selection for Small Spaces

By Jennifer Andrews

Choosing
a projector for multiple purposes is similar to selecting a large-venue machine,
but with a few key differences. You’ll still need to consider some of the same
basic technical specifications — brightness (measured in lumens), resolution
and connectivity, for example — but you’ll also want to compare overall
weight, security features and throw ratios before making your final decision.

The Usual Specs

Brightness.

You won’t need the
same kind of brightness for a small audience as for a larger group; however, you
will need a projector that’s bright enough to give you a nice-looking image in
a lights-on environment.

Buy a projector with at least 1,200 lumens of brightness or
more for lights-on presenting. This is an easy target to hit since most projectors designed
for presentations meet or exceed this amount.

Resolution.

There are two primary
choices of resolution for these types of spaces: XGA (high-resolution, 1024 x
768 pixels) and SVGA (800 x 600 pixels, now considered entry-level resolution).
The best images will result when your computer and projector resolutions match; however, XGA is still more future-proof. If budget allows, an
XGA projector will produce a crisper image and be more compatible with newer
technology. SVGA projectors produce nice-looking images as well, however,
and they are usually the least expensive projectors, with many priced at less
than $1,000.

Connectivity.

A multipurpose
projector is often used for different activities and in different locations. That might mean you’ll be using different sources as well,
so try to find a projector that offers multiple connectivity options such as
composite or S-video. These are more common connections on sources such as DVD
players and VCRs.

For future-proofing, think about getting a projector with DVI
and/or component video inputs. Most come with multiple connectivity options and compatibility
isn’t a major issue, but component and digital options are becoming more
common on DVD players and computers and will provide better signal quality.

Weight.

Portable projectors now
weigh as few as two pounds, and typical brighter multipurpose models weigh
between five and 10 pounds and are very easy to set up and use in multiple
locations. Some portable projectors ship with a convenient carrying case, which
helps keep it and its cables together in one place.

Security.

Most of us don’t like to
think about the possibility of theft where we worship, but it’s a reality we
must face. Many projectors include extra security features that will deter
theft, including a Kensington security-lock slot, network notifications via
e-mail (on networked projectors) and keypad-lock protection, which also
prohibits prankish tampering. Of course, keeping your equipment stored and
secure is also very important for a portable projector.

If, on the other hand, your projector is wall- or
ceiling-mounted, some deterrents are built into the mount itself. One common
security feature is proprietary hardware configurations that require specific
tools be used to release the mount and basic locks.

Throw ratios.

One important
projector spec to consider in small spaces is the throw
ratio,
a measure of the size image a projector can
produce from a given distance. A general rule for calculating throw distance
with a standard lens is to allocate about one foot of screen for every two feet
of space between the projector and screen.

The Short-Throw Lens: A Small Room’s Friend

If you want a large image from a short distance, consider a
projector with a short-throw lens. This feature allows you to create the big
picture you want in a tight space. (Some short-throw projectors can create an
impressive 60-inch-diagonal image from just a few feet away from the screen!)
Many manufacturers have designed projectors with built-in short-throw distances
for small-room applications. They provide throw-distance calculators that help
determine the size of image that can be produced from a given distance by each
of their projectors. Although these distance calculators are generally very close,
they don’t always provide the exact size of an image, which is created at a
specific distance.

Short-throw lenses should not be confused with another helpful
projector feature, the zoom lens.
Manual or digital zoom is a feature on many standard, long-or short-throw
lenses. This feature allows for larger or smaller images from the same
distance, much like a zoom lens on a 35-millimeter camera.

Selecting a Screen

Projection screens are highly recommended accessories, even in
small spaces. Using a screen will create a crisper, better-looking image than
blank walls. Walls are a good substitute if money is tight, but a screen might
actually be less expensive than you think. (Some portable models sell for less
than $200.) First, you’ll need to determine how you want to use your screen.
Should it be portable so you can take it from room to room or offsite for
missionary work, or do you plan to use it in a permanent location? Do you need
the latest and greatest screen with all the flashy bells and whistles, or do you
want something simple and inexpensive?

The four most common screens on the market are:

Portable

— These screens readily
travel from location to location.

Manual
— An economical choice if
you’ll be keeping the screen in one location Electric — These high-end screens add elegance to their
permanent locations.

Fixed-frame
— A permanently tensioned screen stretched around a frame and
installed in a fixed location

Many screens are available in each of these mounting orientations. Some will
include additional features such as designer casing, tab tensioning, adjustable
masking borders and more.

The most common screen mounting options for small worship
spaces are:

Portable

— Good for offsite Bible
studies, youth group meetings or service-entry greetings; and
Manual
— Great for dedicated study areas, dedicated meeting
rooms and cry rooms.

Creative Uses for Portable Projectors

Once you’ve bought your portable projector, don’t just
leave it on the shelf. There are countless creative ways to use it — for Bible
studies, children’s church, in Sunday school classrooms, to display greetings
and announcements before services, during Vacation Bible school, for memorial
services, in church business meetings, for movie nights, and during celebrations
and events. These are just a few suggestions.

Whether you’re displaying community photos and videos or
intensely studying the scripture, portable projectors are a dynamic tool for
sharing God’s glorious message.

Jennifer Andrews is the Internet communications manager for
ProjectorPeople.com, where she has been writing tutorials on projection
technology for five years. Visit www.projectorpeople.com for more information about this
dynamic display technology.


ROAD WARRIOR

The new Notevision XR-1X projector from Sharp is a sleek,
lightweight, personal projector that easily fits into a carry-on bag with a
laptop. This “pico” portable projector combines high brightness and
high-quality Carl Zeiss™ optics, along with the latest advances in DDR DLP
technology, making it the ultimate choice for both data and video projection.
About the size of a pair of paperback novels, the XR-1X measures 9.7 inches wide
by 2.5 inches high and 4.8 inches deep and weighs just three pounds. Setup is a
snap with a faster start-up than traditional projectors, on-screen-interactive
help for easy setup and operation assistance, color-coded connectors, and
backlit operation keys.

888.GO.SHARP
www.sharplcd.com


BRILLIANT IMAGES ANYTIME, ANYWHERE

Sony’s portable VPL-ES2 projector is ideal for on-the-move
presenting, combining a sleek, lightweight design with bright, crisp images for
professional presentations during the day and entertainment at home at night. Part of the Sony® SuperLite™ LCD mobile projector series,
the VPL-ES2 weighs just 6.3 pounds and packs into a small case for carryon
convenience. The projector incorporates easy-to-use set-up features with a
bright 1,500-lumen picture. Focusing on ease of use, Sony’s new “Auto Set- Up”
buttons take the hassle out of setup. The lens, tilt, input search, keystone and
pixel are automatically adjusted with a touch of a button. Component video input and a whopping six video modes give
multiple options to connect to PCs, DVD players, game consoles and more.

888.315.SONY
www.sonystyle.com


PALM-SIZED PROJECTOR HITS THE MARKET

In July, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America’s
Presentation Products Division will offer its PocketProjector, one of the world’s
smallest projectors. Weighing in at just 14 ounces and fitting easily into the palm
of a hand or a coat pocket, this tiny projector is perfect for mobile
presentations at a moment’s notice. The PocketProjector can be battery-powered
or used with a universal car adapter for truly on-the-fly presentations. The PocketProjector has one of the shortest projection
distances of mobile projectors on the market today: Users can easily create a
20-inch-diagonal screen with only one foot of projection distance, and a 40-inch
image can be created with less than one yard.

888.307.0312
www.mitsubishi-projectors.com

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Employee Screening Answered



Background Checks 101
5 Frequently Asked Questions About Employee Screening, Answered

Churches are trusting environments — sometimes to their own detriment. If you’re curious about how background checks can help protect your church, your staff and yourself, read on.

Our Experts

Paul Tollner
Director of National Accounts Intelius 
www.intelius.com 

Daniel Paulsen
General Partner Employment Screening Alliance Inc.
www.esag.org 

1. For what ministries is it especially important to conduct background checks?

Paul Tollner: Churches have a special responsibility to screen anyone providing support or services to members of a church community. Within that community, there are particularly vulnerable groups — the elderly, children and families. Screening helps ensure the church’s goals and reputation aren’t subverted by an individual with mal-intent, while providing extra peace of mind for church leaders, the congregation and the community-at-large.

Daniel Paulsen: The obvious answer is Sunday school and youth ministries, including sports activities and camps. Also to be included is any position that requires fiduciary responsibilities.

2. Which is better: a blanket approach or selectively screening?

Paulsen: Because cost is always so important, churches have the tendency to say, ‘We really know all our employees and volunteers, so we don’t even need to perform this function.’ Then they screen only those directly associated with a particular function, like a youth ministry. The real answer is to screen all employees and volunteers. Do a good search, not just the least expensive one available.

Tollner: Churches should set a policy for when they screen applicants — whether upon receipt of an application or following an interview — and stick to it for every position within the church.

3. At what point should a church begin the screening process?

Tollner: Precisely when the background check happens is less important than the background check results being received well before a new hire or volunteer spends a single minute working on behalf of the church. By developing a standard practice and staying organized, a church can ensure that nobody slips between the cracks.

Paulsen: As with any nonprofit, money is a key consideration. We have found it’s most effective to screen when an offer is made and accepted — that is, make the offer pending acceptable results of the background check. You can usually get results in a few days or less.

4. How much can churches expect to pay?

Paulsen: We’ve found that churches often try to take the road of least cost. Knowing this, screening companies often offer searches — like a nationwide scan — that aren’t effective. A standard profile should include, at the very least, a social security number search, an all-states sex offender registry search, and a state and/ or county criminal search for all addresses found in the social security number search. The cost will vary, but if the church is working with a screening company used to partnering with churches, they can normally ask for — and get — a package price as low as $25 to $50 per applicant.

Tollner: Budget is a concern for organizations that haven’t historically employed a screening program. There’s the temptation of settling for a free service, or neglecting background checks altogether. Both these alternatives are dangerous. It’s important to remember that when it comes to background checks, free information is typically worth exactly what it costs. When it comes to the trust of a congregation, background checks aren’t the place to cut corners. Planning and prioritizing of budget, coupled with the support of a church community, can result in a healthy and accurate screening program. Congregations are generally glad to contribute to a program with such an important role.

And here’s a thought: Why not ask those who want the privilege of volunteering for church programs — whether it’s coaching a soccer team, running a summer camp or hosting a youth group — to pay for the expense of their background checks? The price of background checks depends on two variables: volume and detail.

For each position, criminal background information is important, but for a position offering access to church finances, a credit check might be also be necessary, while a childcare position might warrant a DMV record check.

Volume also drives down the per-search cost. Broadly speaking, a church should anticipate spending $20 and $30 per applicant.

5. Any cautionary tales of churches that didn’t bother to run background checks?

Paulsen: There have been instances of fraud and child molestation in the areas of finance and youth ministry, but most fraud cases aren’t prosecuted and deal with hidden monies. Much of the bad press comes from the child youth areas and deals as much with drug use and molestation. In these cases, churches have admitted loss of parishioners and revenue.

Please understand these are the exceptions, not the rule — but we’re talking about institutions that can’t afford any mishaps.

— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh


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