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Church Executive Author Says 'Gun Violence is Changing the Legal Culture'; Horrific Maryville, IL, Tragedy Demonstrates that Sorry Truth

Contact: Ronald E. Keener, Editor, Church Executive, 800-541-2670 ext 204

MEDIA ADVISORY, Mar. 11 /Christian Newswire/ -- "Not too long ago the idea of gun violence in churches would have seemed peculiar -- maybe a scene in a western movie, but certainly not a story line like this in suburban America: Witnesses Recall Church Shooting Horror," writes attorney Nathan A. Adams IV.

Adams wasn't speaking about the gunning down of pastor Fred Winters as Winters stood in his pulpit Sunday (March 8) at First Baptist Church, Maryville, IL. The motives of that shooter, also leaving others wounded from knife cuts, are still unknown.

Adams recently wrote in the March issue of Church Executive magazine, almost prescient, in an article "How Can Churches be Prepared for Gun Violence?" After a review of several gun incidents, the senior counsel with Holland & Knight LLP, Tallahassee, FL, observed:

"Tragedies such as these mean that churches of all stripes must now seriously consider not only the best way to protect their members both on and off campus at church-sponsored or arranged activities, but also how the law may impose liability on them if they do not."

The attorney said that while a person is not responsible for the criminal acts of another, custom creates duties to prepare for the bad acts of others. "However, legal duties evolve by 'custom and practice' or 'voluntary assumption' to create duties to prepare for the bad acts of others," says Adams. "Like it or not, gun violence in churches is changing the legal culture."

He believes that "every church needs a general security plan identifying and assigning the steps to take in the event of an emergency."

"The most common lawsuits for incidents of violence or crime will be tort claims for personal injury. The three elements to every tort claim are: (1) a duty of care, (2) a breach of that duty, and (3) harm proximately caused by the breach of duty. The duty of care can be based on custom and practice, actions which indicate a voluntary assumption of a duty, or a special relationship," he writes in Church Executive.

"Doing ministry will always involve risks, but wise churches will take steps in advance to minimize them to avoid more costly liability that juries may otherwise impose and to minimize harm to their participants," Adams concludes.

The article can be found at http://churchexecutive.com/article.asp?IndexID=1193. Nathan Adams, whose firm has a national Religious Institutions practice, can be reached at Nathan.Adams@hklaw.com or 850-425-5640.