Opinion 20-62

May 21, 2020

Dear :

         We respond to your inquiry (20-62) asking if you may serve as Stewardship Co-Chair for your house of worship. This would involve (1) asking congregants to increase their weekly offering and to make special donations/gifts, both at religious services and by letter and (2) calling or meeting with selected individual members seeking larger one-time contributions.

         While judges may assist not-for-profit religious organizations in “planning fund-raising” behind the scenes, they must not “personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities” (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][I]). Applying this rule, we said a judge “may not personally solicit contributions from the congregation by preaching a sermon on tithing” (Opinion 10-148) and “may not chair a committee which informs members of a religious congregation of their membership fees, and may not permit his/her name to be listed as committee chair in certain associated written materials that describe such fees” (Opinion 15-03). Here, too, we conclude you may not serve as Stewardship Co-Chair.

         Enclosed for your review are Opinions 18-44(C); 15-92(A); 15-03, and 10-148.

                                                 Very truly yours,

                                                 George D. Marlow, Assoc Justice

                                                 Appellate Div., First Dept. (Ret)

                                                 Committee Co-Chair

                                                 Hon. Margaret T. Walsh

                                                 Supreme Court Justice

                                                 Committee Co-Chair