Berkshire Museum Drama Heats Up

Recently, in Controversial Decision for Berkshire Museum (10/11/17), we reported on an uproar last summer in the art world. The trustees of this 100-year-old institution in  Pittsfield, Massachusetts, had announced a decision to sell some 40 valuable and cherished works of art at a Sotheby’s auction set for November 2017. The board explained this plan was based on the Museum's perilous financial situation: an Read More

Hurricanes, Houses of Worship, and FEMA Help

We reported over the summer about Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, “one of the most important rulings on religious rights in decades." There, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a 7-2 majority, explains that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment “...protects religious observers against unequal treatment,” and rules that a state “may not deny a church an otherwise available public benefit Read More

Long-Awaited ERISA Decision Reached

Late last year, we previewed a pending Supreme Court case involving pension plans of religiously affiliated nonprofits. On June 5, 2017, the ruling was issued: All eight justices participating in Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton agreed that the “church plan” exception to ERISA coverage for employees is broad enough to include all religiously-affiliated facilities including ones that were not originally Read More

Religious Nonprofits Score Big Constitutional Win

It all started several years ago on a playground at a church preschool in Columbia, Missouri. The saga concluded on June 26, 2017, when seven of the nine justices of the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the church. In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, Chief Justice John Roberts explains that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment “...protects religious observers against unequal Read More

GuideStar, "Hate Groups," Death Threats & A Lawsuit

What do you get when you mix: a respected charity-information reporting agency, a highly regarded civil-rights organization, 46 organizations with 501(c)(3) status but who espouse alt-right ideology, death threats, and litigation? You get a mess - though a fairly predictable one - now in the high-drama summer heat of 2017. [Note, 8/14/17: This post was written well before the tragic events of August 12th Read More

Charities in the Courtroom 12: A Donation with Baggage

More than once we’ve discussed "problem donations" and "tainted donors." With a "problem donation," the gift itself - (often an in-kind donation) - is gratefully accepted but turns out to be much more trouble than it’s worth. See, for instance, Who Would Run Away From a Big Charitable Gift?  You Should . . .  Sometimes. The "tainted donor" situation is where the gift is wonderful - generally, an enormous wad of cash Read More

Charities in the Courtroom 11: Old Ladies, Charity Bequests, and “Never Mind”

It’s a familiar tale in this installment of our Charities in the Courtroom series: Elderly person makes charitable bequest; charity gets excited and makes plans; elderly person - or a representative -reneges.    Just Say No: Backing Out of a Promised Donation Back in the day, Dena and Ellis Meyers had a developmentally disabled son, Stephen, who became “one of the first residents” in 1981 of the supervised housing Read More

Charities in the Courtroom, Pt. 10: Disabilities Accommodation Rules

A recent federal court ruling in Texas is an important reminder that nonprofits must pay careful attention not only to the laws directly affecting their favored tax status, but to general laws as well like those that apply across the board to all employers. EEOC v. Methodist Hospitals of Dallas, No. 3:2015-cv-03104 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 9, 2017) involved a nonprofit institution covered under the Americans with Disabilities Read More

Charities in the Courtroom, Part 9: Relief for Flint

For almost three years since April 2014, the beleaguered citizens of Flint, Michigan, have suffered from a shocking decision by an emergency city manager appointed by, and answerable solely to, the state’s GOP governor, Rick Snyder. To save a piddling amount of money, and without performing due diligence, the emergency manager switched the city’s water supply from the safe Detroit River to the heavily polluted Flint Read More

A Third Way to Get Noticed by the CA Attorney General

Hint about this blog post title: It’s ironic. It’s never a good thing to get noticed by an attorney general from anywhere, like it’s never a good thing if a “60 Minutes” reporter shoves a microphone in your face. Just so we’re clear about this, check out two earlier posts: “A Recipe for How To Get Noticed by the California Attorney General,” and “A Second Way to Get Noticed by the California Attorney General.” They Read More