As religious leaders continue to grapple with appropriate COVID-related safety measures for their congregants, a federal appellate court recently clarified that no legal barrier exists under Illinois law for religious gatherings. In Cassells and the Beloved Church vs. Snyder, issued on March 8, 2021, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recognized that religious organizations may legally gather as they wish – consistent with their First Amendment religious freedom and assembly rights, and otherwise in accordance with appropriate health and safety considerations – since the prior Executive Order prohibiting religious gatherings of more than ten people is no longer in effect. This significant court ruling dovetails with Illinois’ accelerating re-opening efforts, lightened capacity restrictions, and enormous push toward widespread vaccinations.
How does a nonprofit best protect children from harm? A new organization called the Evangelical Council for Abuse Prevention (ECAP) is answering this question through newly minted accreditation standards, now in the public comment phase and soon to be tested among ministries nationwide. ECAP has also scheduled its first national conference for June 17, 2021, to provide hands-on guidance for organizations particularly as they reopen in-person programs this summer and fall.
Imagine an organization that welcomes children in the name of Jesus, seeks above all to bring them to faith, and bathes every aspect of its activities with religious dimensions. Yet it is characterized by the government as not “religious” enough to qualify for religious exemption from state unemployment coverage. That’s what happened to By The Hand Club For Kids, a ministry controlled by The Moody Church in Chicago, when it objected to the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s (IDES) characterization of its religiously-infused afterschool program as merely “secular.”