Nonprofit & Religious Organizations

Overview

OUR Practice
Highly regarded as a trusted adviser and advocate for nonprofit and religious organizations, Stradley Ronon addresses the challenges and obstacles that nonprofits face helping them achieve their missions. We represent tax-exempt organizations of all of all stripes – religious organizations, colleges and universities, charter schools and other educational institutions, health care and social services agencies, and others serving the community – regarding the myriad legal issues that arise throughout their life cycles.

We recognize that each client is unique and tailor our approach to each client’s distinct needs. Our practice is regional, national and international in terms of clients and reach. We serve nonprofits worldwide, collaboratively with Meritas, a professional global alliance of more than 175 law firms.

OUR Approach

With nearly 90 years of experience, we understand the legal, business, practical and political challenges nonprofits face and are skilled at resolving them.

Our team is deep and broad, comprising of lawyers from numerous disciplines whose common focus is to help our clients solve real problems and prevent new ones. As recognized thought leaders, our attorneys are sought out by the media and others serving the religious and nonprofit sectors to educate and comment on significant developments in the field.

Personally as well as professionally engaged in the nonprofit world, our lawyers serve on nonprofit boards in communities where we live and beyond. In these roles, we have gained practical experience and a stakeholder’s perspective on organizational and financial issues, enabling us to better serve our clients with tailor-made solutions.

Meeting Your Challenges
Beyond the many legal problems all entities confront in today’s business and legal environment, nonprofits face unique transactional issues; structure and governance concerns; tax challenges; church-state matters; and insurance, regulatory and land-use issues. Whether advising a religious institution on a sensitive church-state matter, counseling a charter school on a sophisticated real estate deal or guiding a private foundation through a complex tax issue, we have the experience needed to resolve matters effectively and cost-efficiently.

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Results

Results

Representative Matters

Litigation
  • Defended religious organizations’ right of self-governance in litigation and regulatory matters
  • Advised many religious organizations regarding federal laws including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)
  • Examined potential risk exposure of churches and other charities to liability claims and recommended structural, administrative and/or management changes to minimize exposure
  • Defended nonprofit and religious entities in internal investigations into compliance with government grants and programs
  • Advised and defended religious employers under the First Amendment against potential claims – anti-discrimination, contract, personal injury and defamation – by persons in positions of ministry
  • Investigated, advised and defended religious organizations and nonprofits in matters arising from employee misconduct
  • Defended religious charities in state Charities Bureau investigations
  • Defended religious organizations regarding zoning issues in the trial and appellate courts including the state Supreme Court
  • Defended a Catholic health system’s ability to follow the church’s “Ethical and Religious Directives” against charges the directive violated a standard of care
  • Defended statutory exemptions for religious entities under ERISA
  • Defended against Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state agency complaints raising church-state issues over internal church employment practices and application of public accommodations laws to private religious institutions
  • Argued against retroactive application of new limitations period for civil claims as unconstitutional in state trial and appellate courts including the state Supreme Court
  • Counseled numerous nonprofits and religious organizations regarding vulnerable persons, including:
    • Conducted internal investigations
    • Evaluated and assessed cases for settlement opportunities
    • Defended against abuse allegations
    • Developed policies regarding abuse and employee misconduct
    • Provided educational seminars and training
  • Represented religiously affiliated organizations in investigations conducted by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration
  • Examined potential risk exposure of church to liability claims and recommended structural, administrative and/or management changes to minimize exposure
  • Represented religious organizations in seeking real estate tax exemptions and reductions, and successfully defended significant transfer tax exemptions
  • Negotiated a seven-figure settlement in favor of a religious secondary school in connection with an actuarial malpractice claim arising out of the mismanagement of a pension plan, in advance of the filing of a complaint and without lengthy litigation
Transactional and Regulatory Matters
  • Drafted and implemented structures and policies in conformance with state nonprofit law and religious doctrine requirements
  • Assisted nonprofit arts, entertainment and sports clients in sponsorships and staging concerts, golf tournaments and exhibitions
  • Prepared personnel policies in conformity with religious doctrine for religious nonprofit organizations
  • Represented nonprofit organizations, religious entities and higher education institutions in several complex joint ventures, including a venture in which properties are being converted into a mixed-use campus that will include housing for several private academies
  • Obtained favorable tax exemptions for religious entities, including one of the largest health care and human services networks in the country
  • Assisted religious organizations to shape disciplinary systems so as to be better protected against litigation by members or ministers
  • Represented a religious organization in a long-term lease and management arrangement for more than a dozen cemeteries. The deal, one of the first of its kind in the country, is expected to generate significant revenue for the religious organization
  • Advised national religious ministry associations on legislative, regulatory, governance, exemption, personnel and other issues
  • Counseled religiously affiliated higher education institution in parsing and applying the religious employer exemption in faculty negotiations
  • Represented religious entities in a variety of property transactions, including reorganization, governance issues and compliance with tax exemptions
  • Reviewed corporate governance, tax compliance and international grant-making policies for U.S. religious organizations
  • Assisted international religious organizations in achieving U.S. tax exemption and in complying with tax and grant-making requirements
  • Worked with religious organization to restructure religious and educational activities and assist leadership in planning for the future
  • Negotiated with financial institutions regarding branded credit cards, student and faculty banking relationships and ATM agreements
  • Assisted religious entities in strategy related to the development or other disposition of real property to maximize future income and benefit to the entities
  • Represented religious organizations in seeking real estate tax exemptions and reductions, and successfully defended significant transfer tax exemptions
  • Counseled numerous nonprofits and religious organizations regarding vulnerable persons, including:
    • Conducted internal investigations
    • Evaluated and assessed cases for settlement opportunities
    • Defended against abuse allegations
    • Developed policies regarding abuse and employee misconduct
    • Provided educational seminars and training
  • Advised many religious organizations regarding federal laws including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and similar state laws
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