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The Pastor’s Study

QUESTION: Our church is often asked to sign contracts with a mandatory mediation or arbitration clause.  We have also wondered if our employment and other contracts can utilize mediation or arbitration so we can stay out of the secular court system.  Can religious nonprofit organizations designate neutral third-party mediators and arbitrators that adhere to the value system of their entity?

ANSWER:  Yes!  Most jurisdictions will recognize that the parties to a dispute should have some control over the identity of the individual(s) selected to decide the outcome of the case.  Parties can have a prior agreement that the panel of candidates will come from a same-faith-based arbitration service provider.  Secular arbitrators are often specialized in particular types of cases, such as employment cases, commercial contracts, and business disputes.  An employer should designate in the written arbitration agreement any specific preference of arbitration provider or describe the credentials of or type of arbitrator that will be selected.  Please contact a law firm that specializes in church law in order to ensure that your agreements are carefully calibrated to ensure that any dispute is heard in a forum which ensures the arbitration provider is a Christian, faith-based provider in order to ensure your dispute is heard in a forum that is not hostile to your religious beliefs and convictions.

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