When is a religious entity permitted to dodge the letter of the law with respect to pensions? Most of the time, according to traditional interpretations of those laws.

That status has long frustrated plaintiffs' attorneys, because it has provided cover to religiously affiliated hospitals and other "businesses" whose plans don't meet ERISA standards.

Pension shortfalls at some religiously affiliated hospitals, businesses and social service agencies are raising new alarms and spotlighting a largely overlooked gap in the law protecting Americans' retirement benefits. Congress set up the exemption in benefits law to protect churches from government interference in their finances. 

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.