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Churches and clergy

Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship—and their clergy and spiritual leaders—play an important role in the lives of many people. And sometimes our relationships with these institutions and people intersect with the law.

In Texas, as in other states, churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship, along with their clergy and spiritual leaders, are subject to certain legal regulations while also enjoying specific protections. Under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA), these institutions are protected from laws that substantially burden their free exercise of religion unless the government can demonstrate a compelling interest and that the law is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. Clergy are generally not required to perform marriage ceremonies that go against their religious beliefs. Additionally, communications made privately to clergy for spiritual advice are typically protected by clergy-penitent privilege, meaning they cannot be disclosed in court without the consent of the person who made the confession. However, clergy and religious institutions must comply with state laws regarding mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect. It's important to note that while religious institutions are generally exempt from federal income tax under the Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3), they must still adhere to other state and federal laws, including employment laws, building codes, and health and safety regulations.

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