Are Your Congregational Meetings Legal?
Written by Whitman H. Brisky, Esq
The fact is that for most churches organized under the Illinois Not-For-Profit Act, proper notice of congregational meetings is not being given. And if proper notice is not given, every action taken at the meeting is invalid.
Most church bylaws provide that notice of congregational meetings must be given by announcing it from the pulpit for two weeks before the meeting. But the Not-for-Profit Act requires that notice of congregational meetings must be given in writing to each member. This could be by mail, personal delivery or e-mail, but the notice must be given individually to each member. If not, notice is improper regardless of what the bylaws say.
What is the harm if a church does not comply with this notice requirement? After all, this is the way things have been done for years, and no one has raised a question. But what if the actions of the congregation include a hotly contested matter where the congregation is closely divided. The losers might very well take the church, or the winners, to court claiming the meeting was invalid and try to reverse the result. This could end up costing a lot of money for lawyers’ fees and loss of time while the matter is sorted out. So the notice problem is not really a problem, until it is.
This issue does not arise for churches organized under the Illinois Religious Corporation Act which has no such requirement. On the other hand, reincorporating under the Religious Corporation Act does not necessarily solve all problems, and may create others. And it may not always be easy to send individual notices to every member.
Churches should consult with their attorney to determine the best way to insure that congregational meetings are legal.
The information contained here has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This material describes issues in general terms, and good legal advice required detailed analysis of particular facts and circumstances. You can contact a Mauck & Baker attorney at (312) 726-1243.