Churches ask congregants to “sign away” their legal rights

Church members are prohibited from suing church officials, according to contracts that some large Protestant churches are asking congregants to sign. These contracts – often called ‘covenants’ – are dangerous documents that will make it even harder to expose church staff who commit or conceal crimes like sexual abuse.

Major evangelical churches in Dallas, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. – and likely elsewhere - apparently urge new members to sign away their legal rights when they join up. We hope, as information on these contracts becomes more widely available to the public, that no parishioner will sign one of these these pro-secrecy contracts and that any church considering their use will  decline to pursue this idea.

The New York Times last week reported on The Village Church in Texas using these stunning contracts.

According to VICE News, it’s “difficult to estimate just how ubiquitous these documents were in the American evangelical world, which according to Pew includes roughly a quarter of the population and nearly a fifth of millennials.” But according to the Wartburg Watch, it is happening in other places, too.

Apparently the legality of these contracts has yet to be tested. Regardless, we believe their existence is wrong. For the safety of children and vulnerable adults, we urge church officials and congregants – from every faith group – to reject them.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is


Showing 2 comments

  • Paul Dohse Sr.
    commented 2019-06-18 15:46:15 -0500
    They can be challenged based on the deliberately deceptive language and the assumptions that go along with the churchy lingo that is used. When parishioners sign these “covenants,” they are not thinking, “legal contract.” If most were informed that is was a legally binding contract recognized by state law, they wouldn’t sign it. It’s deliberate deception on the part of churches.
  • Paul Dohse Sr.
    commented 2019-06-18 15:38:26 -0500
    This has been going on for years.

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant