A win for religious freedom and for churches

April 30, 2015 | No comments | Posted in Religious Freedom | Tags: ,

Should church leaders be criminally liable when a church member, who is still attending that church, no longer wants the pastors to bring resolution and reconciliation?

Of course not, but Detective Jerome Staquet of Upper Merion Township Police Department brought these charges against counseling members of Harvest Chapel of King of Prussia, PA. These church leaders were charged with violating criminal harassment laws for simply carrying out church discipline.

Religious FreedomOn April 20, the court dismissed all charges. “Pastor Townsend and his leaders were not afraid to stand up for what is right and to stand strongly upon their right to practice their religion as God has called them to do,” said friend of the Independence Law Center, Defense Attorney Jeff Conrad of Clymer Conrad PC in Lancaster.

We applaud Jeff Conrad for his able assistance to this church. Judge James P. Gallagher ruled in favor of the church leaders, dismissing the charges.

“Judge Gallagher quickly saw…the unconstitutional nature of the charges and dismissed all counts against both pastors and all of the elders,” said Conrad.

Harvest Bible Chapel leaders had attempted to council two members of the church to persuade the couple to stop gossiping within the church. In response the couple contacted Detective Staquet, whom on February 25, 2015, filed harassment charges against Pastor Matt Townsend, Assistant Pastor Scott Allison, and Elders Timothy Cole, Howard Sizemore, and Bevan Greiner.

Conrad went on to say these church leaders “were not afraid to stand up for what is right and to stand strongly upon their right to practice their religion as God has called them to do.”

Though we live in an era when some government officials show no respect for our religious practices, church leaders need not fear. Yet, they should be wise. Relevant to this case, the church had a membership policy that made clear to potential members that this was a church that practiced church discipline and the parameters for church discipline were spelled out. Churches would do well to have such policies to guard against both civil and criminal claims.

For a model policy to use developed by the Alliance Defending Freedom – download the Membership Model Agreement.

For more information about implementing such a policy, contact our Independence Law Center at 717-657-4990 or go online to independencelaw.org.

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