Universal Life Church Case Law
Phone: (614) 715-9048 Fax: (614) 715-9049
Email: info@ulccaselaw.com
ULC Case Law
1629 K Street NW, Ste 300
Washington, D.C. 20006

The Basics

Starting your own church is a serious undertaking but one that offers many benefits to both body and soul. There is a lot of excellent and expert information in the “2010 Church and Nonprofit Tax and Financial Guide” by Dan Busby released through Zondervan Publishing. If you are serious about staring your own church you need to purchase this book – it answers a lot of questions in a very concise and detailed manner that is also easy to follow. It is very important that you do this because there are some very important steps to take that will affect the legal status of your new church and if you do not take the proper steps up front, you will not be able to change or reverse the status of your church without a lot of time, and money invested. The Universal Life Church Monastery can not counsel you or offer legal advice or strategies though we can point you in the right direction and let you know, from experience, some of the best resources available to help you realize your goal. You will need an attorney to make sure that your documents are in order and appropriate for both your location and that fits your goals for your organization. We do recommend that you do most of the paperwork beforehand as this will save you an enormous amount of time and money with your attorney with the added benefit of knowing the legal structure of your organization from the ground up

Corporate Structuring

Some of the things you will need is a set of bylaws – the governing documents of your church. There are sample bylaws available to act as a framework from which you can adopt the clauses you deem appropriate – re-written to reflect your exact circumstances. You will also need “belief statement” statements that outline your religious belief systems and practices and more. You should also look at your states business/corporations website and get a copy of the appropriate incorporation documents. We recommend getting a few copies… one to read through thoroughly and get an understanding of what each field means, and a couple of copies to practice on. These are not difficult documents to go through but again, it is really important for you to get this correct from the beginning, and present them to the attorney mostly completed so that you save money. You will also need to have a list of people who will serve as officers of your corporation – yes – churches are corporations, though they generally fall into the 501(c)(3) non-profit status category. Even under this status you will still need a board of directors to list with the incorporation.

Now onto some of the basic concepts that you need to think about when undertaking the building of your church:

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your reasons for starting a church?
  • Will your new church be a full-time or part-time professional calling?
  • Is this a change to a more formal organization from an existing home-church scenario?
  • Will your church be active in fund-raising?
  • Will you be performing weddings, baptisms, funerals or other rites and services?
  • Will your church be involved in community outreach programs and support?

This is an introduction to some of the questions that you will be required to answer when you start the process of filling in the proper forms for forming your new church.

NEXT:

You need to determine if you are forming a basic ministry or a formal church corporation structure with plans for new building(s) to act as a base for your church. This all relates to corporate tax-exempt status. Some of the variables to consider are size of your church – the number of members that will attend and how many members you plan on attracting to/for your services. Remember that the appropriate corporation structure and formation is the foundation for your success.

Naming your church is an often overlooked but crucially important step. There is a big difference, legally, in determining whether your service will be a church or a ministry. A ministry can be something as simple as a regular gathering in a coffeehouse whereas a church has deeper legal requirements and benefits.

The Internal Revenue Service and your new Church

You need to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN). The Internal Revenue Service will issue you one once your paperwork is in order. You need to use the SS4 form from the IRS and the process is very simple – but you need to have your prior paperwork in order first. The SS4 form can be found at the Internal Revenue Service website or by visiting your local public library for a paper copy. There is a good resource to understand the EIN process and requirements online at the Employer ID Numbers help page. We recommend that you obtain an SS4 form and review it carefully to gain a full understanding of what you need to answer the questions.

After a formal and detailed review, call the IRS Business and Specialty Tax Line: 1-800-829-4933. They will assist you with any questions you may have, and clarify any of the fields that require an answer. One note – if you have gone through the formation steps above, you should not need any help with this process – you will know this information by heart. Once you have been issued your EIN (you will receive a formal document from the IRS within a few business days) keep it in your business formation file. Make several copies of these papers. You’ll need to reference and provide this information often in the remaining steps – business bank accounts, and accounting all need it.

Opening a Business Bank Account: Here is what you will need to open an account in the name of your church or ministry: your Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws and Opening Resolutions or the company, EIN, Statement of Faith, and Statement of Beliefs, 501(c)(3) status certification (if you are planning on being tax-exempt), and funds for an opening balance. Not all banks require all items; some require more. The best practice is give your preferred financial services provider a call, find out what they need to set up the account and set a meeting to accomplish everything at once.

 

Recent Posts

  • The Webster Parish School Board in Louisiana announced that it plans to adopt a new policy concerning religious expression in public schools. Webster Parish Passes New Religious Policy Exception 06/14/2018

      The Webster Parish School Board in Louisiana announced in April of 2018 that it plans to adopt a new policy concerning religious expression in public schools after a lawsuit was filed claiming the school’s officials promoted religious expression that violated the First Amendment. The policy is focused on preserving and explicating the religious rights Read More

  • Washington recently became one of the latest states to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ people. Washington Passes Law Prohibiting Conversion Therapy 06/06/2018

      Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee recently signed into law SB 7522, which protects LGBTQ individuals from conversion therapy. The bill is the result of efforts by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equal Rights Washington. These groups have long advocated for the prohibition of conversion therapy throughout the country. In response to this decision, Read More

  • A lawsuit was recently initiated against the State of Ohio for refusing to allow people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates. Lawsuit Against Ohio’s Prohibition of Gender Changes on Birth Certificates 05/18/2018

    Lambda Legal, in combination with the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) of Ohio, recently initiated legal action against the state of Ohio for its policy that prohibits people from changing the gender marker on their birth certificates. Ohio, as well as Kansas and Tennessee, are the only states that decline to change gender designations even after Read More

  • A Tennessee bill that requires schools to prominently display the motto of “In God We Trust” is currently headed to the governor for his signature. Tennessee Passes “In God We Trust” Bill 05/04/2018

      A Tennessee bill that requires schools in Tennessee to prominently display the motto of “In God We Trust” is currently headed to the governor for his signature. This legislation, which is referred to as the National Motto in the Classroom Act, was passed by 81 of 99 members of the house. Prior to the Read More

  • Recently, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that religious beliefs do not permit employers to discriminate against transgender employees, finding that a violation of Title VII. Sixth Circuit Decides Influential Transgender Case 04/27/2018

    At the beginning of March, 2018, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in the case of EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. that discrimination based on transgender status violates Title VII prohibitions against sex-based discrimination.   How the Case Arose This case was initiated when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Read More

  • Read More