Starting a Nonprofit

Making a Christ-Centered Healthcare Decision

The challenge, and the opportunity, for every Catholic nonprofit is to make Jesus Christ the center of every decision. For Catholic nonprofits with employees, this challenge is uniquely present in the context of choosing employer-sponsored healthcare options and benefits. An executive of a large Catholic nonprofit once said she believed her organization needed to have a ‘Catholic worldview’ in deciding the healthcare options to offer its employees. She is correct - Catholic nonprofits have an obligation to discern God’s will in determining whether they can afford to financially contribute to their employees’ healthcare needs and, if so, in determining what kind of healthcare plan would best serve their mission. Catholic nonprofits should also understand their employer healthcare obligations, if any, under federal and state law.
The challenge, and the opportunity, for every Catholic nonprofit is to make Jesus Christ the center of every decision. For Catholic nonprofits with employees, this challenge is uniquely present in the context of choosing employer-sponsored healthcare options and benefits. An executive of a large Catholic nonprofit once said she believed her organization needed to have a ‘Catholic worldview’ in deciding the healthcare options to offer its employees. She is correct - Catholic nonprofits have an obligation to discern God’s will in determining whether they can afford to financially contribute to their employees’ healthcare needs and, if so, in determining what kind of healthcare plan would best serve their mission. Catholic nonprofits should also understand their employer healthcare obligations, if any, under federal and state law.

The Ministerial Exception: How Catholic Nonprofits Can Safeguard Their Right to Choose Their Own Leaders

In general, state and federal law prohibit discrimination based on religion and immutable characteristics such as race, sex, color, and national origin. But under the ministerial exception, churches, religious schools, and other qualifying religious organizations are exempt from these laws in connection with the hiring and firing of their ministerial employees. This protection applies only to employment decisions involving a distinct class of employees who are considered ministers. While the term “minister” encompasses more than just a church’s ordained clergy, the precise scope of the term is not clearly defined. There are, however, some guidelines that Catholic non-profits can follow to determine which of their employees might qualify as ministers.
In general, state and federal law prohibit discrimination based on religion and immutable characteristics such as race, sex, color, and national origin. But under the ministerial exception, churches, religious schools, and other qualifying religious organizations are exempt from these laws in connection with the hiring and firing of their ministerial employees. This protection applies only to employment decisions involving a distinct class of employees who are considered ministers. While the term “minister” encompasses more than just a church’s ordained clergy, the precise scope of the term is not clearly defined. There are, however, some guidelines that Catholic non-profits can follow to determine which of their employees might qualify as ministers.