Mark E. Chopko

Chair Emeritus, Nonprofit & Religious Organizations

Mark Chopko


Mark Chopko is the chair emeritus of Stradley Ronon’s nonprofit & religious organizations practice group, which brings together 25 lawyers from across the firm’s many legal disciplines to serve the unique needs of those clients. He joined the firm in 2007, after serving for more than 20 years as general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and nearly eight years as a regulatory attorney in Washington, D.C. He has extensive experience in untangling the liabilities of complex organizations, in both planning and organizing activities and in litigation. Mark has represented clients across the country, and from Europe to the Pacific Rim. A major emphasis of his practice is constitutional law and deflecting attempts by government to regulate the activities of religious institutions. This work includes creating and adapting civil structures that reflect the mission of the organization but also separate and protect the operations and mission of the organization. He also has more than thirty years’ experience in defending claims of professional misconduct by clergy and staff of religious and nonprofit institutions, including evaluation and mediation of those claims.

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Representative Matters

  • successfully defended religious organizations in litigation to protect their internal operations   and to advance rights of the free exercise of religion in workplace, regulatory, and disciplinary  matters
  • successfully dismissed lawsuits challenging discipline of clergy by religious organizations
  • represented religious healthcare interests in ERISA litigation in appellate courts and Supreme Court
  • defended and resolved through mediation cases resulting from workplace violence
  • advised and defended religious agencies in matters dealing with harassment, exploitation, and discrimination claims
  • defended, investigated, advised and negotiated high-profile and complex cases involving often decades-old claims of abuse and misconduct and other similarly sensitive and important issues in trial and appellate courts
  • successfully defended religious entity against a public accommodation investigation
  • evaluated and assessed hundreds of misconduct cases for nonprofit organizations and insurers, including victim interviews and comparative and detailed liability and damages  assessments for mediation
  • lobbied for client public policy and regulatory issues in the  Congress and the federal government
  • created civil structures for congregations, drafted child protection and other  internal policies, obtained tax  exemption, and implemented accountability and risk management guidelines for Catholic dioceses, monasteries, and orders, and for many other religious organizations
  • advocated and defended client interests limiting  the scope of liability or the scope of government regulation in litigation and before regulatory agencies
  • planned and implemented organizational and management issues for religious organizations that express Christian and non-Christian, western and eastern beliefs, to integrate the concerns and principles of those religious clients into various civil structures to protect assets and to organize risk and liabilities; and to protect the expectations of religious leaders, congregants and the public
  • successfully represented both nonprofit parent and nonprofit subsidiary entities in resolving internal disputes over respective rights and responsibilities 
  • led client teams in developing and implementing proactive strategies to anticipate and plan for risks- by designing new structures and policies, and mitigating unsafe or dangerous activities
  • advised and defended religious higher education institutions about regulatory and employment issues involving their religious identity
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Bar Admissions
  • District of Columbia
  • Pennsylvania
Court Admissions
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • J.D., cum laude, Cornell Law School
  • B.S., summa cum laude, University of Scranton

  • Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Catholic Business Network of Northern Virginia
  • District of Columbia Bar Association
  • Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
  • Honorary Member, Church Law Society, Prague, Czech Republic
  • John Carroll Society of Washington, D.C.
  • National Diocesan Attorneys Association
  • Nonprofit Forum, New York City
  • Registered Lobbyist
  • Religious Liberty Committee, National Council of the Churches of Christ
  • CSSM Review Board, Region III


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Speaking Engagements

  • Presenter, “Parsing Liabilities Between Dioceses and Institutes,” Resource Center for Religious Institutes’ Annual Conference
  • Presenter, “The Church and Public Policy,” National Catholic Risk Retention Winter Meeting
  • Panelist, "Standards for Exemption: Speech," National Center on Philanthropy and the Law, 2022
  • Presenter, "Sponsorship in Jeopardy," Resource Center for Religious Institutes, Annual Conference 2022
  • Presenter, “A Legal Perspective on Building a Culture That Is Sensitive, Aware and Anticipates,” Convocation: The Spirit of Collaboration, 2022
  • Presenter, "Constitutional Privilege in Discovery Disputes," NDAA Annual Meeting 2022
  • Presenter, "Legal Issues Updates: Maintaining Identity and Fidelity in a Changing Environment,” Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities 2022 Annual Meeting
  • Panelist, “To The Limit: A Discussion of Litigation and Public Policy Considerations Regarding Reviving Time-Barred Civil Claims,” American Property Casualty Insurance Association’s Virtual National General Counsel Conference, October 2021
  • Presenter, “The Implications of 2020 Court Rulings on Catholic Institutions,” Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities
  • Moderator, “Must Know HR Information: The Supreme Court’s July 8 Decision on the Ministerial Exception and What it Means for Religious Employers,” National Association of Church Personnel Administrators’ Webinar
  • Panelist, “Sexual Abuse Molestation in Dioceses,” Arthur J. Gallagher Webinar, 2020
  • Panelist, “Understanding the CARES Act for Catholic Dioceses,” Villanova University’s Center for Church Management Webinar, April 2020
  • Panelist, “Religious Freedom Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” American Bar Association Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice Webinar, April 2020
  • Panelist, “Civil Law Overview – New President’s Institute,” Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, January 2020
  • Panelist, “Ministerial Public Juridic Persons – Civil Law Aspects,” Resource Center for Religious Institutes, October 2019
  • Presenter, “Ten Worst Practices for Diocesan HR,” National Association of Church Personnel Administrators 2019 Convocation
  • Speaker, “Current and Historic Abuse in the Church in the United States,” Catholic Diocesan Attorneys Annual Meeting, April 2019
  • Presenter, “Uses and Abuses of the First Amendment in Defending Church Litigation,” United Methodist Church Annual Meeting, April 2019
  • Panelist, “#MeToo and #Insurance, Too,” Resource Center for Religious Institutes’ 2018 National Conference, 2018
  • Panelist, “Fundamental Public Policy for Churches: Arguments and Problems,” New York University School of Law’s National Center on Philanthropy and the Law Annual Conference, 2018
  • Presenter, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities Meeting- Civil Law Issues for College Presidents, 2018
  • Speaker, “Litigation Under a Spotlight: Use of Litigation as a Resolution Tool,” 27th Annual National Catholic Risk Retention Group Meeting, 2018
  • Presenter, Webinar on Ministerial Exception and First Amendment Rights of Churches (with Professor Robert Tuttle), 2017
  • Panelist, “All Things Mission: Hiring for Mission and Formation for Faculty and Staff,” Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities’ Catholic Mission Institute
  • Webinar Panelist, “Involvement of Religious Charities in the Political Process: Dos and Don’ts,” Church Mutual Insurance, 2016
  • Webinar Panelist, “Nonprofit Risk Management: Identify and Prevent Devastating Threats,” Lorman Education Services
  • Speaker, “Public Accommodation Laws and the Use of Religious Properties,” Arthur J. Gallagher and Co. Convocation, 2016
  • Moderator, “Twelve Years under the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children,” Arthur J. Gallagher and Co. Convocation, 2014
  • Speaker, “Ten Top Tips for Building an Effective Child Protection Program on Campus,” University Risk Management and Insurance Association Conference
  • Presenter, “The Constitutionality of the Parsonage Allowance,” Nonprofit Forum
  • Speaker, “Fifty Years of Service,” Panelist, Annual Meeting of National Diocesan Attorneys Association
  • Panelist, “Celebrating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” Program for U.S. Senate and House of Representatives members and staff, 2013
  • Panelist, “Drafting and Interpreting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” Moment Magazine, the Committee on Religious Liberty and the Religious Freedom Education Project, 2013
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  • National Association of Church Personnel Administrators, Vision Award
  • Martindale-Hubbell, AV Preeminent rating
  • “Washington, D.C. and Baltimore's Top Rated Lawyers,” Martindale-Hubbell and ALM Media
  • Honorary Member, Church Law Society of the Czech Republic
  • Frank O’Hara Award as distinguished alumnus, University of Scranton
  • Named “Corporate Counsel of the Week” by The National Law Journal
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In The Community

Mark served two terms on the Board of Advisors of the National Center on Philanthropy and the Law at New York University Law School and on the advisory board of the Theological College at the Catholic University of America. He is also a member of the Catholic Business Network of Northern Virginia and a Chancellor in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. He and his wife are Patrons of the Bethlehem University Foundation. He has also served as a volunteer in his community, including in community orchestras and on his local PTO board, and Parish Council and as a Youth Basketball Coach.
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