Your Church and Terrorists; Something Else to Worry About

Our clients keep us on our toes! Because we encourage them to call us when they have a problem and we generally don’t charge for phone calls, we get a steady stream of questions posed to us by our clients and friends.

Most of the questions are quite routine, dealing with things common to all churches: whether or not a particular employee qualifies for a housing allowance or if a designated gift should be treated as a deductible contribution. But occasionally something new comes along.

PSK hosts a monthly breakfast for church business administrators where in addition to a delicious meal the attendees are treated to a discussion of a topic relevant to church business administration. In May our breakfast was billed, “Know Before You Go” and we discussed things that must be considered when planning a short term mission trip. For example what do you do if a member asks for contribution credit for paying for a specific individual to go on the trip? We also covered trip organization (passports, visas, shots etc.), paymaster responsibility and record keeping and insurance.

But, something I was asked recently made me aware we had left something out. “We are sending money to a mission group in Africa. Can we get in trouble with Homeland Security?” Turns out they and other churches funding ministries like schools, hospitals and orphanages, should be concerned.

Now, I don’t want you to get overly concerned. The reality is that it is unlikely that a church will have its assets frozen or exempt status threatened by funding an orphanage. Provided, of course, it takes minimum precautions. Here’s just a few:

  • First become familiar with Executive Order 13224 and The USA Patriot Act the legislation requiring that certain things be done. Helpful resources are The US Treasury’s Anti-terrorist guidelines and The Principles of International Charity.
  • Educate your church, both staff and laity, of the implications of the anti-terrorist rules.
  • Do background checks on the groups you are helping, particularly referring to several government lists that identify terrorists.
  • Keep good records of all of your activities and insist on accountability.

There you go; something new to worry about over your Christmas holidays. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call!

Merry Christmas!

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