June 26, 2019
by John Kaempf

5 Tips To Reduce The Risk Of Legal Liability Against Your Church Or Religious School

 1. If you help operate a church or religious school, the safety of children is your first concern. Over the last decade, about 75% of churches and religious schools that got sued did so because of child safety issues. Churches and schools have a legal duty to protect children in their care from reasonably foreseeable risks of harm. So, churches and religious schools need to engage in due diligence when selecting staff and volunteers to…

March 11, 2019
by John Kaempf

There are several important religious freedom cases percolating through the courts nationwide, one or more of which may end up before the newly configured U.S. Supreme Court, which is now split 5 to 4 in favor of religious freedom. These cases give the Court the chance to uphold the First Amendment rights to freely exercise religion and engage in free speech.

In last year’s Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly ruled in favor of the Christian baker in Colorado who refused to specially bake a cake for a gay wedding based on his sincere religious beliefs. Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, the Christian owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop bakery in Colorado, an attorney asked him to create a cake designed pink on the inside and blue on…

March 11, 2019
by John Kaempf

In March of this year, Justice Kavanaugh, joined by Justice Alito and Justice Gorsuch, stated they will oppose religious discrimination by the government.

In March of this year, in a case called Morris County v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, the U.S. Supreme Court, because the factual record was not properly developed, decided not to take a case involving religious discrimination. However, Justice Kavanaugh, joined by Justice Gorsuch and Justice Alito, stated that, when the factual record is complete, the Court should accept this case for review and rule against religious discrimination. This case involves a New Jersey Supreme…

March 11, 2019
by John Kaempf

In early 2019, in King v. Warner Pacific College, the Oregon Court of Appeals held that, under an Oregon statute, a Christian school can expressly discriminate against a job applicant on the basis of their religion, and can prefer applicants who are Christian. State statutes like these should be kept in mind because they supplement the First Amendment Constitutional right of Christian schools and churches to freely exercise their religion in the employment process.

Early this year, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided King v. Warner Pacific College. The plaintiff in that case is “of the Hebrew faith.” He sued the defendant, a Christian College, after he unsuccessfully applied to be an adjunct psychology professor. The College has a written policy requiring “each employee to affirm a personal faith in Jesus Christ.” Plaintiff refused to do that. Also, the College intends that “a Christian worldview be integrated into all…

March 11, 2019
by John Kaempf

National churches have a much stronger basis to be dismissed from a child sex abuse case based on the conduct of pastors or other local church agents, even if a local congregation faces liability. This is because of principles of agency law recognized even in anti-church states like Oregon.

Unfortunately, many churches and religious schools are facing multi-million dollar lawsuits based on child sex abuse that allegedly occurred, often decades ago, involving ministers, teachers, or other agents. But while the local church may face liability in such cases, national churches often have a complete defense based on principles of agency law. A corporate defendant is typically not vicariously liable for intentional torts like sexual battery of a child. But even in the few states…

October 23, 2018
by John Kaempf

With the addition of Justice Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court now has a 5 to 4 truly conservative majority for the first time in over 80 years. It will support religious freedom and seems poised to eventually strike down the federal rights to an abortion and gay marriage. that would send these issues back to the people and the states to decide. this is a big reason why his nomination was so contentious.

After much controversy, Justice Brett Kavanaugh was added to the U.S. Supreme Court this fall to replace Justice Kennedy, who retired. This is good news for supporters of (1) religious liberty; (2) the right to life; and (3) opponents of judicial activism, often called “legislating from the bench.” The nine-member Court now consists of a majority of 5 conservative Justices appointed by Republican presidents. This article will not delve into the 1980s sexual assault allegations…

October 23, 2018
by John Kaempf

One or more of the following four religious freedom cases might be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in the next year.

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering whether to exercise its discretion to accept the following four religious liberty cases for review. In the law, this is called a “petition for certiorari.” If at least four of the nine Justices agree to accept one or more of these cases, they will be decided by the full Court in the 2018-2019 term. Patterson v. Walgreen Co. involves a Walgreens training instructor in Florida whose Seventhday Adventist…

October 23, 2018
by John Kaempf

This fall, Pope Francis invited bishops worldwide to an unprecedented meeting at the Vatican in February, 2019 concerning the needed response to the child sex abuse scandal engulfing the catholic church.

This fall, Pope Francis summoned bishops from around the world for an unprecedented three-day meeting at the Vatican in February, 2019 focused on protecting minors from sexual abuse by priests. Pope Francis has called for every president of the 114 Catholic bishops’ conferences of the world to meet at the Vatican to discuss the sexual abuse crisis. Holy See spokesperson Paloma García Ovejero said the meeting will be about the “prevention of abuse of minors…

October 8, 2018
by John Kaempf

Why all the fuss? New U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh publicly promised last year to be a conservative, “originalist” justice like his “first judicial hero,” former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who dissented in Roe v. Wade. This puts the constitutional rights to an abortion and gay marriage in doubt.

In a speech last year to the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Justice Kavanaugh spoke for about an hour about his “first judicial hero,” the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Nixon in 1972 and served on the Court for 33 years. Justice Kavanaugh confirmed his own  “originalist” approach to interpreting the Constitution, stating that it is “a document of majestic specificity.” Its “specific words have meaning.” He…

July 12, 2018
by John Kaempf

In Masterpiece Cakeshop, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for a Christian baker in Colorado who sells his goods to anyone, but refused to create a cake for a gay wedding due to his sincere religious beliefs. The Court, however, avoided deciding the broader first amendment legal issues. Oregon’s Sweetcakes By Melissa case, which involves less overt government hostility to religion than Masterpiece, may be the case that requires the Court to decide these issues for the nation.

In June, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In that case, two men came into the small Colorado bakery owned by Jack Phillips, a devout Christian, to order a customized cake for their same-sex wedding. Mr. Phillips sells his premade goods to anyone. He politely told the couple, however, that he would not (1) create a cake (2) for their gay wedding because of (3) his religious opposition…

July 12, 2018
by John Kaempf

In NIFLA v. Becerra, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a California law requiring pro-life Christian pregnancy centers to advise women that California provides free abortions violates their first amendment rights. This is a big win for supporters of the rights to free speech and to freely exercise religion.

In June, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case called National Institute of Family and Life Advocates “NIFLA” v. Becerra, addressed a challenge to a California law called the Reproductive “FACT” Act. It was enacted to regulate crisis pregnancy centers. They are “pro-life (largely Christian belief-based) organizations” that “aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortions.” The FACT Act states that centers that do not perform abortions must provide this prominent, pre-written notice…

July 12, 2018
by John Kaempf

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. President Trump nominated Federal Appellate Judge Brett Kavanaugh, an establishment conservative, to replace Justice Kennedy. Judge Kavanaugh will likely be confirmed because Republicans control the Senate at least until this November’s mid-term elections. However, a heated confirmation battle is expected. This is because he will change the balance of the court to a 5 to 4 generally conservative majority. This should positively affect religious freedom and free speech rights. It will also revive the debates over abortion and gay marriage.

Justice Kennedy announced his retirement this summer. He was a moderate “swing” voter. He was appointed by President Reagan in the 1980s and confirmed when Democrats controlled the Senate. He often provided the decisive fifth vote in groundbreaking cases. For example, he was the deciding vote in favor of gay marriage, and wrote the Obergefell majority opinion. In 1992, he rejected the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade and the right to an abortion. President…

July 12, 2018
by John Kaempf

Churches and Religious Schools Should Consider Having a Lawyer Review Their State’s Constitution and the State Appellate Cases Construing It To See If They Have Legal Protections Against Lawsuits Beyond Those Provided By The U.S. Constitution.

All 50 states have their own constitution. Religious entities should consider having a lawyer check the constitution of the state where they are located concerning its free exercise of religion and free speech protections, as well as state appellate cases interpreting these clauses. U.S. Supreme Court cases construing the U.S. Constitution grab the headlines. But state constitutions and the state appellate cases interpreting them should not be overlooked because they often provide greater protections to…

January 9, 2018
by John Kaempf

The Status of the “Sweetcakes by Melissa” Christian Bakery-Gay Wedding Case in Oregon

Readers of this blog likely know that in 2015, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide, Brad Avakian, Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries “BOLI” Commissioner, issued his Final Order in a BOLI case entitled In the Matter of Melissa Elaine Klein, dba Sweetcakes by Melissa. BOLI Commissioner Avakian ruled that the respondents in the Sweetcakes case, Aaron and Melissa Klein, the Christian owners of a bakery, who, pursuant to their…

July 20, 2017
by John Kaempf

The important religious freedom issue raised by Oregon’s “Sweetcakes by Melissa” gay wedding-Christian bakery case will be decided in 2018 by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case from Colorado called “Masterpiece Cakeshop.”

Jack Phillips owns Masterpiece Cakeshop, a bakery in a small Colorado town. In the summer of 2012, two men came into his shop one afternoon asking him to make a cake for their gay wedding. Jack responded: “I’m sorry, but I can’t promote messages that violate my beliefs, though I’d be happy to sell you anything else.” Phillips has been a Christian for over thirty-five years and believes in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior….

July 20, 2017
by John Kaempf

In June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case called “Trinity Lutheran Church,” held that churches cannot be excluded from neutral state programs for public benefit, and churches may directly receive state money from these programs.

On June 26, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in a case entitled Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer. By a 7–2 margin, with two liberal justices (Breyer and Kagan) joining the Court’s four conservative justices, including Justice Neil Gorsuch, who joined the Court this year, and “swing” Justice Kennedy, the Court held that when a state (Missouri in this case) creates a neutral program for public benefit — in this case, a program…

July 20, 2017
by John Kaempf

One or more additional U.S. Supreme Court vacancies could occur during President Trump’s at least one term in office.

This year, deceased U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia was replaced by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by President Trump. Justice Gorsuch has already shown himself to be a supporter of religious freedom, as discussed elsewhere in this newsletter. Currently, the nine-member Court consists of 5 conservative justices and 4 liberal justices. Justice Kennedy is generally conservative, but is often an unpredictable “swing” vote. For example, he voted with the majority in the 2015 Obergefell…

March 23, 2017
by John Kaempf

Regardless Of What One Thinks of President Trump, Supporters of Religious Freedom Should Be Pleased By His Nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court

As most readers undoubtedly know, this year, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by last year’s death of Justice Scalia. Given Judge Gorsuch’s record, supporters of religious liberty should be pleased by his likely confirmation by the U.S. Senate to serve on the Supreme Court.

March 22, 2017
by John Kaempf

The Status of the “Sweetcakes by Melissa” Christian Bakery-Gay Wedding Case in Oregon

Readers of this newsletter likely know that in 2015, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide, Brad Avakian, Oregon’s BOLI (Bureau of Labor and Industries) Commissioner, issued his Final Order in a BOLI case entitled In the Matter of Melissa Elaine Klein, dba Sweet Cakes by Melissa.

March 21, 2017
by John Kaempf

The First Three Things To Do If Your Religious Organization Is Faced With A Sex Abuse Claim

Unfortunately, child sex abuse claims against religious organizations, valid and invalid, have greatly increased over the last two decades. There are three important things to do first if your church, religious school, or other religious organization is faced with a child sex abuse claim. First, immediately contact an attorney and any insurance company that may provide coverage for the claim and ask that the insurer provide coverage. This is known as “tendering” your defense to…

September 5, 2016
by John Kaempf

Protecting Minors Is More Important Than Having A Costly Transgender Bathroom That Religious Institutions are Not Required To Provide

Those who operate churches, religious schools, or other religious institutions may have followed recent news and wondered whether they should install bathrooms to accommodate persons who claim to be “transgender.” Because of the First Amendment right to freely exercise religion without government interference, and to avoid potentially devastating legal liability if a minor is sexually assaulted by a “transgender” person, the answer is “no.”

September 5, 2016
by John Kaempf

The Little Sisters Of The Poor Obamacare Contraception Mandate Case: A Victory For Religious Liberty This Year.

In Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, a 2016 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the “HHS mandate” in the Obamacare law and the “accommodation” to that contraception mandate that the Obama administration put forward for the Little Sisters of The Poor and other similarly situated religious organizations. The HHS mandate requires employers to include in their insurance offerings coverage for contraceptives, including products that can induce early-pregnancy abortions. The Court vacated the lower…

September 5, 2016
by John Kaempf

The Status Of The “Sweet Cakes By Melissa” Christian Bakery-Gay Wedding Case In Oregon

Readers of this newsletter may have seen in the news that on July 2, 2015 – the week after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized gay marriage nationwide, Brad Avakian, Oregon’s BOLI (Bureau of Labor and Industries) Commissioner, issued his Final Order in a BOLI case entitled In the Matter of Melissa Elaine Klein, dba Sweet Cakes by Melissa.

September 5, 2016
by John Kaempf

In Oregon, Keep In Mind That Churches And Other “Bona Fide Religious Institutions” Are Exempt From Laws That Prohibit Employment Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation Or Marital Status

Oregon and most other states have laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or marital status. However, Oregon has a statutory exemption to these laws for churches and other religious institutions.

February 15, 2016
by John Kaempf

An Oregon Trial Court Judge Dismissed A Lawsuit Brought By A Student Expelled By A Religious School, As Well As His Parents, Holding That The School Has The “Sole Discretion” To Make Disciplinary Decisions About Its Students, And The First Amendment Bars Such Claims

John Kaempf, the author of this newsletter, successfully defended a lawsuit filed by a student expelled by a religious high school, whose parents also sued the school. The student was expelled due to repeated instances of misconduct at school. He sought damages for the alleged “loss of value” due to not graduating from the school and for the allegedly resulting loss of college scholarships.

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