Panel of Legal Experts

In January 2011, the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations ("the Commission") was established.

The purpose of the Commission is to facilitate responses to Senator Charles Grassley, member of the Senate Finance Committee, on issues related to accountability and policy for religious organizations.

Three panels were named to work with the Commission and provide input and proposals on the issues.

The members of the Panel of Legal Experts have extensive experience in the area of exempt organizations, religious organizations, and/or constitutional law.

Mr. Timothy Belz is a lawyer in private practice in St. Louis. During the last 20 years, he has handled dozens of cases concentrating on the constitutional rights of individuals and organizations, especially First Amendment rights of free speech and religious freedom. Mr. Belz is a 1972 graduate of Covenant College and a 1976 graduate, with high honors, of the University of Iowa Law School, where he graduated Order of the Coif.


Mr. Thomas C. Berg, James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, is an expert on religious liberty and church-state interactions. He has written four books and nearly 100 articles on law-religion issues; has written more than 30 briefs in religion cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts; and has testified several times before Congress and state legislatures. Before entering academia, he represented nonprofit organizations, among other clients, at the Mayer Brown law firm in Chicago, IL.


Mr. John Butler specializes in serving exempt organizations. Areas of focus include tax exemption, unrelated business income, benefit plans, compensation, minister and missionary taxation, and charitable solicitations. He has been with CapinCrouse, LLP, Greenwood Indiana, since 1994. Prior to association with CapinCrouse, Mr. Butler had a private law practice and served with Campus Crusade for Christ as in-house legal counsel (the last three years as legal department director). Mr. Butler received both B.A. and J.D. degrees from the University of Georgia.


Mr. Todd Chasteen specializes in nonprofit law as corporate counsel with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian, international crisis relief agency based in Boone, North Carolina. He was a member of the Advisory Committee on Self-Regulation of the Charitable Sector and the Government Oversight and Self-Regulation Work Group for the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector which provided recommendations on nonprofit best practices to the United States Senate Finance Committee. He also served on the ECFA Legislative Committee and the TRUST Coalition reviewing nonprofit issues.


Mrs. Erika E. Cole is the managing attorney for The Law Offices of Erika E. Cole, LLC, a law firm located in Owings Mills, Maryland, which serves church and ministry clients. Mrs. Cole represents many churches of over 10,000 members, as well as smaller congregations. She is also the founder of The Church Compliance Conference, an annual event designed to inform and inspire pastors and leaders about legal compliance matters. She has served as an adjunct professor at Loyola College (MBA Program) and the University of Baltimore School of Law, and is a sought-after speaker in church law matters. Mrs. Cole is a member of the ECFA board.


Mr. James A. Davids is a graduate of Calvin College and Duke University School of Law. Upon graduation from Duke, Mr. Davids practiced law in Chicago for 25 years before going to Washington, DC to serve in the U.S. Department of Justice. From 2001 to 2003, Mr. Davids served as the deputy director of the Department of Justice’s Task Force for the Faith-Based & Community Initiative. Since 2003, he has taught constitutional law at Regent University’s School of Government in Virginia Beach, Virginia.


Ms. Deirdre Dessingue recently retired after 32 years in the office of general counsel at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. For her entire legal career, Ms. Dessingue specialized in the law of tax-exempt organizations, with particular interest in the prohibition on political campaign intervention. Ms. Dessingue received both her undergraduate and law degrees from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. She was with the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS National Office for five years. From 2001 to 2005, she served as a member of the IRS Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT). For ten years, she served as co-chair of the Religious Organizations Subcommittee of the American Bar Association (ABA) Tax Section’s Exempt Organizations Committee. Ms. Dessingue is admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia and in New Jersey. She currently offers consulting services for tax-exempt religious organizations.


Mr. Derek Gaubatz is a recognized expert in religious liberty law and currently serves in Richmond, Virginia as general counsel of the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention. Prior to joining the IMB, Mr. Gaubatz served for several years as the Director of Litigation of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. He is a graduate of Stanford Law School.


Dr. David Gibbs, Jr. is the founder and president of the Christian Law Association, a nationwide ministry that provides legal assistance to churches, pastors, and Christians free of charge. Dr. Gibbs is the author of seven books and has served with the Christian Law Association for over 40 years. During his years of service, he has appealed and argued before 15 different state supreme courts.


Mr. Laurence A. Hansen is a partner in the Chicago office of Locke Lord LLP, where he focuses on employee benefits, executive compensation, and tax-exempt organizations. Among his clients are various religious organizations, including retirement and benefit plans covering thousands of participants throughout the United States. 


Mr. Emanuel (“Emil”) J. Kallina, II is the managing member of Kallina & Associates, LLC, which focuses its practice on estate and charitable planning for high net-worth individuals and represents charitable organizations in complex gifts. Mr. Kallina works extensively with charitable lead and remainder trusts, supporting organizations, and private foundations. He has also practiced business law, corporate tax law, partnerships, and real estate. Mr. Kallina founded the website, which provides professionals the tools needed to complete planned and major gifts.


Mr. Dennis Kasper, a partner in the Los Angeles office of the law firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, has 30 years of experience representing charitable organizations and businesses. His charitable clients include churches, schools, denominational bodies, mission organizations, and multinational religious charities, in addition to public benefit organizations.


Mr. Steven T. McFarland has 30 years of law practice and public service, in which he has directed the Center For Law and Religious Freedom of the Christian Legal Society, spearheaded the Faith-Based and Community Initiative in the U.S. Department of Justice, directed a federal commission for international religious freedom, served prisoners abroad at Prison Fellowship International, and now serves as chief legal officer of World Vision in Washington, DC, a Christian relief and development ministry serving vulnerable children worldwide.


Mr. G. Daniel (Danny) Miller is a partner in the Washington, DC office of Conner & Winters LLP. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1971 and received his law degree from the Vanderbilt University School of Law in 1974. Mr. Miller specializes in employee benefits and advises church benefit programs and religious nonprofits nationally. Mr. Miller is a Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel and is a former member of the Advisory Committee to the Commissioner of the Tax-Exempt and Government Employers Division of the Internal Revenue Service.


Mr. Charles O. Morgan, Jr. is a tax lawyer, specializing in trusts, estates and charitable organizations. He is a graduate of Wheaton College, and holds a law degree from the University of Miami and Masters of Laws in Taxation (cum laude) from New York University. He is chairman of the audit committee of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, executive director of the Don Shula Foundation, board member of Chatlos Foundation and the Orange Bowl Committee, and former board member of the Christian Legal Society. Mr. Morgan is author of Jesus Online.


Mr. Michael P. Mosher, an Illinois attorney and founder of Mosher & Associates, has concentrated his legal practice on serving the needs of charitable, religious, and educational organizations since 1976. Today, Mr. Mosher represents several hundred religious institutions throughout the country, assisting with a wide range of tax and corporate law issues and promoting principles of good governance. He teaches the law of tax-exempt organizations at three universities in Chicago and is a frequent speaker at nonprofit and legal seminars.


Ms. Lisa A. Runquist, attorney at law in Los Angeles, has represented nonprofits for 35 years. She is the winner of both the Outstanding Lawyer Award and the Vanguard (Lifetime Achievement) Award from the American Bar Association (ABA) Business Law Section, NP Committee. She is the author/editor of Guide to Representing Religious Organizations (2009), The ABC’s of Nonprofits (2005), and Nonprofit Resources (2007), as well as serving as ABA liaison to the ALI/ABA Principles of the Law of Nonprofit Organizations, ABA Advisor to ULC Uniform Unincorporated Nonprofit Association Act, and ABA Advisor to ULC Model Protection of Charitable Assets Act.


Mr. Kevin Snider is chief counsel for Pacific Justice Institute in Sacramento, California. He has litigated numerous high profile First Amendment cases. Mr. Snider has taught church law to seminary students and is a frequent presenter on church law and religious liberties. He counsels pastors relating to church issues, and advises leaders of faith-based nonprofits on corporate matters. Mr. Snider is admitted to practice in the California and District of Columbia Bars.


Mr. Frank Sommerville, JD, CPA is a shareholder in the law firm of Weycer, Kaplan, Pulaski & Zuber, P.C. He is also Board Certified in Tax Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Sommerville has served religious institutions of all sizes and all major faith communities (Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu). He is a regular contributor to many publications, including Christianity Today, Your Church, and PPC’s Nonprofit Tax & Governance Guide: Helping Organizations Comply (2011). Trained as a commercial litigator, he has successfully litigated many court cases involving religious organizations. He frequently trains nonprofit and religious organizations regarding legal risks and compliance issues.


Mr. Erik Stanley serves as senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). He has focused his practice on appellate law, free speech, traditional family values, pro-life, and religious liberty constitutional law. Mr. Stanley has filed, briefed, and argued numerous trial and appellate cases on constitutional issues throughout the United States. He graduated from Temple University School of Law in the top five percent of his class and is a member of the Florida, Kansas, and the District of Columbia bars, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court and numerous federal district and appellate court bars.


Mr. Mathew D. Staver, is the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, an international nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization. He also chairs Liberty Counsel Action, Liberty Action, PAC, and Freedom Federation. He serves as dean and professor of law at Liberty University School of Law. He is a trustee for The Timothy Plan, a publicly-traded family of mutual funds. He serves on a number of nonprofit boards. Mr. Staver has written ten books, several hundred scholarly publications, and more than 210 published legal court opinions. He is board certified in appellate practice by the Florida Bar and has the highest AV rating given to attorneys by Martindale-Hubble. He is an accomplished constitutional litigator and has argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court. 


Mr. James R. Walker is a partner at Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons LLP in Denver. His broad practice includes advising charities, religious organizations, and donors on tax-related matters. Mr. Walker assisted the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector in its response to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee in 2004 to 2006. In 2008, he secured a high profile private letter ruling from the IRS’s National Office for a Colorado Type III supporting organization. Mr. Walker also helps religious leaders navigate through campaign restrictions.


Mr. Charles M. (“Chip”) Watkins is an attorney with Webster, Chamberlain & Bean, LLP, Washington, DC. Mr. Watkins served as an attorney in the office of the Associate Chief Counsel (Employee Benefits and Exempt Organizations) of the Internal Revenue Service, from 1981 through 1985. Mr. Watkins counsels and represents religious and other tax-exempt organizations on tax, employee benefits, corporate governance, fundraising, contracts, and other legal and regulatory matters. Mr. Watkins is a member of the DC Bar, and a ruling elder of McLean Presbyterian Church in McLean, Virginia.


Mr. Thomas Winters is the founding partner of Winters & King, Inc., a Tulsa, Oklahoma law firm. He teaches as an adjunct professor on nonprofit law, and is a frequent presenter at nonprofit conferences. He has worked with many nonprofit clients facing inquiries by governmental entities including the IRS and Senate Finance Committee.