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  • June 8, 2018

Potential Broad Implications from the Supreme Court’s “Narrow Ruling” in Masterpiece Cakeshop

Few decisions from the United States Supreme Court this term were as anxiously anticipated as that in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  Everyone anticipated a close decision where the Court would balance religious liberty against discrimination based on sexual orientation.  The decision announced on June 4, 2018 was not close and it did not decide that issue.  Instead, it did something much more important. The case concerns Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker and the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, which he opened in 1993. In 2012, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, two gay men intending to get married,…

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  • April 3, 2018

Donor Advised Funds Top Planning Tools Under New Tax Law

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) went into effect on January 1, 2018. Economists argue over the winners and the losers, but one obvious loser was charitable donations and the charities that depend on them. The new tax law nearly doubles the standard deduction in 2018 — to $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for joint filers younger than age 65 — while capping or eliminating other deductions. This means it will no longer make sense for as many taxpayers to itemize deductions. In 2017, 30% of taxpayers itemized; under the new tax law that is expected to drop to…

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  • March 13, 2018

Church Law Practice Group Reflects on the Life of Rev. Billy Graham

The following article was written by Firm Principal Thomas Schetelich and appeared in the monthly publication CPN-OnPoint. Mr. Schetelich and his practice group are pleased to represent churches, ministries, and faith-based organizations throughout the region.  IN MEMORY OF BILLY GRAHAM I met Billy Graham on July 9, 2006.  He was in Baltimore for the Metro-Maryland Festival, featuring his son Franklin as the primary speaker.  I was the Chair of the Festival’s Executive Committee, and had been leading the team working on this event for the past three years.  The general assumption was that Billy Graham had ended his public speaking career, and…

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  • February 12, 2018

Firm News: Schetelich Receives “Top 100 Attorneys” Award, and More

Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew is pleased to congratulate Firm Principal Thomas Schetelich for being recognized as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Attorneys based on lifetime legal achievement. The award is based on peer nomination and independent research focusing on professional experience, significant case results, client satisfaction, and public service. Mr. Schetelich was honored for his work in business law and business litigation. Earlier in the month, Mr. Schetelich, along with Firm Principal Jocelyn Szymanowski, were invited by the Child Evangelism Fellowship to present at their annual training for staff and volunteers. Mr. Schetelich and Ms. Szymanowski discussed the recent cases…

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  • January 31, 2018

Paid Leave Is Now Maryland Law

Earlier this month, the Maryland Senate voted to override Governor Hogan’s veto of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. As a result, that legislation is poised to take effect on February 11, 2018. The Act’s most notable provision requires that employers with 15 or more employees provide full time employees at least 5 days of paid leave per year. For employers with fewer than 15 employees, the leave can be unpaid.  Employees who regularly work 12 hours or more per week are also to receive 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Paid leave may be used…

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  • January 4, 2018

Tolerance is Most Meaningful When it’s Mutual- Supreme Court Arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop

The developing law concerning religious freedom and same sex marriage was argued before the United States Supreme Court on December 5, 2017 in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  The case concerns Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker and the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, which he opened in 1993.  In 2012, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, two gay men intending to get married, came into his bakery and asked him to design a cake for their wedding.  Mr. Phillips declined, based on his Christian faith and his religious conviction that marriage was between a man and…

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  • November 28, 2017

Avoiding Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Recent news stories have shed a brighter light on the very real problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.  Failing to properly address sexual harassment creates an unsafe workplace and exposes the employer to substantial liability. There is nothing new about this issue. Liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has existed for more than thirty years.  These recent headlines simply speak to the unfortunate reality that too many workplaces fail to properly address the problem.  It is imperative that employers acquire the tools needed to protect their employees and themselves.      Sexual harassment encompasses a wide…

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  • July 13, 2016

Maryland Court of Appeals Creates a New Cause of Action Against Adults Who Allow Underage Drinking

The Court of Appeals has broken new ground in Maryland law, holding that parents or other adults who "knowingly and willfully" host an underage drinking party can be held civilly liable for death or injury caused by an intoxicated attendee.  The case is Kirakos v. Phillips, decided on July 5, 2016.  The ruling is the first time the Court has recognized the potential liability of party hosts for alcohol-related harm caused by their guests under the legal drinking age of 21. The unanimous Court based the landmark decision on Maryland Code CR §10-117(b), the criminal statute that makes it illegal…

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  • December 28, 2015

Election Year Rules for Churches and Non-Profits

2016 is a national election year, in which Americans will choose their political leaders at every level of elected government.  Churches and non-profit organizations have much to say on the issues being debated and have a First Amendment right to have their views heard.  The Internal Revenue Code has prohibitions against campaign activity for or against political candidates.  This article reviews the state of the law and the current IRS practices. As a first matter, Churches and non-profits have an absolute First Amendment right to speak out on political issues and for or against candidates, however and wherever they choose,…

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