Pregnancy Resource Centers/Clinics exist to provide alternatives to abortion and provide life-affirming choices to abortion-minded and abortion-vulnerable women. At the core of this mission is also the need to present to clientele the message of the gospel. Every client/patient of a PRC has a deep spiritual need as well as an emotional and physical need. Hence, NIFLA firmly believes that PRCs should place evangelism and a presentation of the gospel as a top priority in their ministries.
Abortion is more than just a political and social issue. It is more than just a manner in which some choose to deal with a problem pregnancy. Abortion, at its heart, is a spiritual issue. For abortion to be addressed thoroughly, the spiritual aspects should be discussed in the counseling rooms of PRCs. By communicating on the spiritual aspects of abortion, PRCs can help their clients/patients come to grips with the core problems in their lives that affect their ongoing lifestyles and lead to problem pregnancies.
The ability of the PRC to promote the gospel of Christ through evangelistic approaches to its clients/patients is critical if this spiritual component of abortion is to be adequately addressed. As a tool to help PRCs do this, NIFLA has long endorsed the work of Hope National, a Christian-based counseling organization, set up to provide materials and training for counselors/client advocates at PRCs. Hope National's counseling program and training manual—Focus on the Heart—is an excellent tool to equip PRCs in this arena.
Focus on the Heart helps the client advocate and client/patient discover the real spiritual issues behind abortion. Further, its scripturally based counseling and gospel orientation make it possible for effective evangelism. It will help your center provide counseling according to the compassion of Christ, thereby bringing healing to both body and soul that only comes from God's love and God's Word. This model can be effectively used in both counseling and medical centers.
For information on obtaining Focus on the Heart and training for your counselors and client advocates, go to www.hopenational.net.
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Religious Non-Profit Corporations
In order to have the maximum legal protection for the pursuit of evangelism, Pregnancy Resource Centers/Clinics should review their corporate documents to determine if they were formed as religious entities. Religious entities receive numerous constitutional protections including the right to hire only those who share their faith and pro-life beliefs. In the beginning of the pro-life movement, many organizations thought it wise to steer away from the religious label because they wanted to appear mainstream and thought that would appeal more to the public. If your center is one of those, your board of directors should evaluate if being "secular" has been a positive aspect for your organization and weigh it against the benefits that being a religious corporation provides under the law.
Review your Articles of Incorporation, which is the document that you initially filed with your state to form your non-profit corporation. Language we look for includes: "The organization was formed for charitable, religious and educational purposes." Additional purpose clause language that amplifies the Christian aspect of your ministry makes it very clear that your organization is religious and thus deserves the protections provided under the law to religious entities. If your Articles do not contain such language, then they should be amended in order to do so.
Another document that should be reviewed for proof of the religious nature of your organization is your IRS Form 1023 which you filed with the IRS to receive your tax-exempt status. If it says nothing about being a religious entity, you may wish to file an amended application.
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Your bylaws also can amplify the religious nature of your organization with a purpose clause that is clearly religious. Reference to a requirement that all your staff and volunteers adhere to a statement of faith approved by the board is wise. You should also consider placing your mission statement in the bylaws if it contains language that clearly identifies the religious nature of your organization.
Religious corporations may require that all staff, including volunteers, ascribe to the organization's statement of faith. Normally, employers cannot discriminate against employees based on religion under the federal civil rights law of Title VII. However, Section 702 of Title VII provides for an exemption for religious corporations. Therefore, Catholic Charities are permitted to hire only Catholics, Jewish organizations are allowed to hire only Jews, and Christian Pregnancy Help Centers/Clinics can hire only pro-life Christians.
For further questions on this topic, please call the NIFLA office at 540-372-3930.
Thomas A. Glessner is President of NIFLA. Anne J. O'Connor is General Counsel for NIFLA. She is a member of the bar associations for the states of California and New Jersey.