Religious Organizations

The Religious Organizations practice of Payne & Fears LLP advises and represents a diverse range of nonprofit religious organizations, corporations, educational institutions and churches (without regard to religion or belief) in the areas of property ownership, corporate formation and governance, and employment.  The firm has assembled an experienced team of attorneys in this multidisciplinary practice area, including attorneys with experience in business litigation and appellate, constitutional, corporate, property and employment law.

We have extensive experience helping nonprofit boards, executives, leaders and volunteers navigate through challenging legal issues so the organization can conserve its resources and focus on its core mission.  They have been interviewed by numerous national, regional and local media outlets, including newspapers, television, radio and blogs, regarding their defense of church property rights, how the law impacts religious groups, and practical steps they can take to protect their rights.

Payne & Fears LLP has significant experience in the following areas: 

Strategic Advice and Preparation - We have advised numerous religious organizations about their property and corporate rights when they are considering a change of religious affiliation or are threatened with litigation.  We have also assisted leaders and governing bodies (vestries, sessions, parish councils, boards, etc.) with strategic advice, contracts, and resolutions to carry out their activities and protect their legal interests.

Corporate - We have assisted numerous groups in forming nonprofit religious corporations, strategically preparing for and conducting the required votes to change religious affiliation, and in fulfilling the corporate requirements for doing so.

Civil Litigation and Appeals - We have successfully defended religious organizations in the secular courts, including corporate governance disputes and suits filed to take the property of local churches after a change of affiliation.  Our attorneys are admitted to practice in a number of states and federal courts, and are able to associate with local counsel in any jurisdiction.  We have a wealth of experience and knowledge in defending these lawsuits in the trial and appellate courts, including before the California Supreme Court.  At the same time, we are sensitive to the needs and aspirations of religious communities in carrying out their missions.

Employment - Many churches and religious organizations seek our advice and counsel concerning employment issues, including issues relating to employee performance, handbooks, leadership, independent contractors, and the extent to which churches are covered by various federal and state employment laws.