Religious Institutions

  • Members of Holland & Knight’s Religious Institutions Team concentrate their practice on the representation of religious institutions and provide counsel that is sensitive to each client's distinctive religious mission.
  • Our team has a thorough understanding of church-state law and also understands the unique challenges that religious institutions confront in the areas of speech, affiliation, zoning, collective bargaining, counseling, renting, employment, taxation and governance.
  • We proactively counsel faith-based organizations on how best to achieve their objectives while minimizing the risks of fulfilling their distinctive faith-based commitments.

Religious institutions confront a variety of unique legal issues and problems related to their religious missions. Holland & Knight assists faith-based organizations by integrating advice about compliance with the increasingly complex laws applicable to all non-profit and tax-exempt organizations with counsel on how they may fulfill their distinctive faith-based commitments. These issues may involve, for example:

  • appointing, employing, or accommodating adherents of the same faith
  • enforcing off-premises and after-hours codes of conduct
  • relocating or expanding facilities where opportunities are scarce
  • sharing and broadcasting religious messages
  • offering, from a religious perspective, a wide variety of educational, medical, and social services

Governance and Compliance

Religious institutions may also face special governance challenges and schism threats pertaining to their religious affiliations. They commonly manage unusual liability and compliance risks arising from their service to children, the elderly, sick, addicted, poor and needy. In addition, religious counseling may involve special dangers under fiduciary duty doctrines or because of privileges at odds with mandatory reporting and disclosure requirements. Fundraising practices, financing requirements, and zoning laws also present challenges to faith-based organizations. Holland & Knight's religious institutions attorneys are trained to find solutions to compliance problems and identify laws and legal doctrines that exempt religious institutions and persons from burdens on their religious exercise (such as RFRA, RLUIPA, and the church autonomy doctrine).

Representing Faith-Based Organizations

Sensitive to the distinctive mission of faith-based organizations, Holland & Knight's lawyers serve a broad variety of organizations nationwide, including:

  • churches and synagogues
  • denominations
  • religious orders
  • schools and universities
  • broadcasters
  • health care providers
  • retirement facilities
  • nursing homes
  • parachurch ministries
  • insurance companies
  • social service providers
  • credit unions
  • missionary organizations
  • philanthropic organizations

Our attorneys counsel religious institutions proactively about how best to achieve their objectives and to reduce risks and liabilities. We lobby legislatures, Congress and the executive branch on behalf of our clients. In addition, we advocate on our clients' behalf before administrative and regulatory bodies and in state and federal courts. We also assist with tax-exempt financings, handle IRS audits and other tax controversies, provide legal audits, and consult on compliance with community and faith-based regulations.

Holland & Knight can assemble a team of lawyers and professionals from across the country with experience and knowledge that is tailored to meet each faith-based organization's needs from real estate and land use, intellectual property, estate donation, security, and tax issues to complying with low income, retirement and nursing home regulations and employment laws.

We are ready to litigate controversies that cannot otherwise be resolved. Our lawyers organize and participate in seminars and conferences, as well as publish articles concerning topics of interest to faith-based organizations. Through Holland & Knight's widely recognized pro bono service initiatives and the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, we share a common goal with our religious institutional clients to improve the communities in which we live and work.