Offices of Jonathan Robert Nelson, P.C. have advised churches in numerous situations, and have represented
them when necessary in civil and church courts. Recently, the firm successfully obtained and defended a federal injunction issued against
the City of New York on behalf of the firm's clients: the Fifth
Avenue Presbyterian Church and ten homeless plaintiffs. (See "Recent News"
page at this website). The federal courts found that the City had violated our clients' constitutional rights
to freedom of religious exercise and freedom of speech by forcibly removing homeless people whom the church was serving
through a program of hospitality and social concern.
The case ended in October, 2006 when the United States Supreme
Court dismissed the City's petition for certiorari.
For copies of judicial decisions in that case, see “For the Record”.
Mr. Nelson has also served as a prosecutor in an ecclesiastical disciplinary proceeding brought by the Presbytery of New York City against a member of the ordained clergy. As counsel to the Presbytery's
Special Disciplinary Committee, Mr. Nelson won the conviction of the clergyman for sexual abuse of a parishioner committed
approximately twenty years before the complaint against the clergyman was filed. The conviction was reversed on appeal by the Permanent
Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s General
Assembly, which interpreted the church's statute of limitations in a way that precluded the bringing of the complaint, but
the Commission's interpretation was itself overturned by a vote of the next year's General Assembly.
representation of religious institutions is not limited to litigation, however. Among other things, the office has:
* renegotiated a lease between a church client and a private day-care program that used church property;
advised churches on issues relating to the termination of professional employees and clergy, and represented them in negotiating
* made presentations to church boards and membership meetings concerning legal matters
in which the church was involved;
* obtained the permission of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Kings County and Attorney General of New York State to an independent church's mortgage refinancing plans;
* represented a church in obtaining payment from the insurer of a construction company that caused damage to the
church's roof and drainage systems;
* assisted a religious advocacy organization in informing Congressional representatives about provisions proposed
in legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that threatened to weaken asylum protections for religious
asylum applicants (some provisions were changed before enactment of the law);
* presented a specifically Christian viewpoint at an American Bar Association panel discussion on immigration reform proposals (Mr. Nelson's
web outline on the subject of
a Christian approach to immigration reform has been published online by the Witherspoon Society);
* counseled business clients seeking to be faithful to
Christ in difficult contractual relationships;
* obtained religious asylum on behalf of Christians persecuted
in foreign countries on account of their religious beliefs;
* obtained "R-1" religious worker visas
for church personnel;
* advised members of the religious community on immigration issues and represented them
in immigration proceedings.