Today’s show features Robert Showers, managing owner of Simms Showers LLP.
 
“Recently, obviously it’s centered around the same-sex issues, but certainly it comes from various areas that just happens to be the recent attack. The strategy has been from the other side it appears that first, we’ll attack businesses that are run by Christians, then we’ll attack Christian ministries, and then we’ll attack churches and related organizations.”
 
Full transcript:
 
Ray: Well, hello everyone. This is Ray Hilbert, your host here at Bottom Line Faith. And this is the program where we love to lift the hood, and we’re going to tinker around in the engine of Christian leadership. And this program is designed for Christ-followers who are business owners, business leaders in the marketplace, non-profit leaders. And we really, really are here to help equip and inspire and encourage you to live out your faith in the marketplace. And if you’ve been a long-time listener here at the program, you know we’ve had an incredible diversity of guests here, from CEOs to chaplains of major sports organizations and teams, to non-profit leaders. And we really, really are so blessed to have a wide variety of guests where we learn about their background and how they’re serving Christ in the marketplace. And our desire is this program would really encourage you as you’re listening. Perhaps you’re on your treadmill right now with your headset on, or you’re driving down the road, or maybe you’re in front of your laptop. But over the next few moments, we have an incredible program for you today. I am so honored, and we are thrilled to have on the program today. Mr. Robert Showers, who is the managing partner in the law firm of Simms Showers LLP, and they practice in Leesburg, Virginia, which is in the DC metro area. And Robert, welcome to Bottom Line Faith.
 
Robert: Thank you, Ray. Appreciate it.
 
Ray: Well, you know, you and I had a chance a few weeks ago to get to know each other. We were referred through a common friend of the ministry here at Truth At Work. And I was so eager to have this conversation after talking with you a few weeks ago. You bring an incredible unique skill set, passion, and gifting to the marketplace. Would you just take a you know, 2, 3, 4 minutes here? Give us a background of what you do each day and your area of expertise in law and practice. Because folks, this is going to be a great conversation today.
 
Robert: Thank you, Ray. I’ve been called to, to really work with Christian ministries, churches, and businesses run by Christians. That’s primarily what I do. A lot of our firm does that but our firm does a broad area as a practice other than that. We are actually in the Baltimore, DC, and Virginia area; we have offices in three or four places. I happen to be in the Northern Virginia office that Ray talked about. The fact is, in the medical arena, this has become a specialty that most lawyers know nothing about. Although they have a desire, Christian lawyers have a desire to help their churches or non-profits or friends who are running businesses; this is really a specialty that sort of comes together in the non-profit world, that the tax-exempt laws, constitutional laws, employment and all the rest. It’s sort of an intersection that the faith part does change many of the answers that you would normally have in the practice of law.
 
Ray: We’re really seeing an attack on the Christian faith in the marketplace today. And in our culture. What’s, tell us a little bit more about what you’re seeing happen?
 
Robert: I think, you know, I’ve been involved in a number of public interest law firms and Christian Legal Society, which is a group of about 15,000 or more Christian attorneys all over the country, I had the privilege of serving as its president just recently and still on its board. And what we have seen through the Christian Legal Society, which is a, you know, like I said, a broad range of lawyers, is just attack in all areas recently. Obviously, it’s centered around the same-sex issues but certainly, it comes from various areas; that just happens to be the recent attack. And the strategy has been from the other side; it appears that first we’ll attack businesses run by Christians, and we’ll attack Christian ministries, and then we’ll attack churches and related organizations. And basically, the intersection is between what they believe is the fundamental right of same-sex marriage or sexual orientation versus the First Amendment freedom of religion, freedom of association and some of the things, free speech, that have been critical to you know our country. And that’s where the current battles are. I mean, there’s a number of cases that have hit the Supreme Court; there’s one right now have a Christian business. Masterpiece Bakery out of Colorado is now before the US Supreme Court. And it is basically about a Christian who runs a bakery, is very, very artistic, and he will sell to anybody, but he was asked to do a same-sex marriage, and he said, I just can’t do that based on my religious principles.
 
Ray: And we’re going to circle back around because that that as you said, that’s a case that is currently placed before the US Supreme Court so we’ll get back to that. But what I’d love to do is kind of circle back around to a little bit of your background, kind of what’s qualified you now to be involved in these kind of cases. And you’re pretty well educated and a experienced guy, you know. As I’ve learned about you, graduated cum laude from Wake Forest University, and graduated from Wake Forest Law School, and, and then you’ve had a long and distinguished career, even serving in the Justice Department and so forth. Why don’t you take, you know, just expand a little bit so our listeners understand a little bit more about your background.
 
Robert: At age 17, I had sort of a Damascus Road experience and came to Christ as my Savior. And that changed everything. I was very involved in sports and played just about every sport known to man. From that, as I went to college, many of my friends felt that I should be a pastor. However, I just never felt called to that, and as I prayed, one of my life verses is Psalm 1. And I never knew exactly how that worked until much later. And for those of you don’t know, Psalm 1 says seek the counsel of the godly and if you do, you’ll be like a tree planted by the water and it will yield great fruit. If you don’t, you’ll be like the tree in the desert and it will wither and die.
 
And so as I graduated from law school, was involved in the Christian Legal Society at the law school and before that, in intervarsity, I was president of that at the college and involved in Christian groups trying to figure out okay, if I wasn’t going to be a pastor, how could that work? And as I was called into law, I have to tell you, I mean, everybody makes a joke about the Christian lawyer being an oxymoron. You know, I was there. I mean, I was trying to figure out, okay, how in the world can I serve Christ in the practice of law. And as I came out, I practiced law a little bit in private practice, and quickly, what happened is, God decided to move me to various positions. I have laughed with my friends, and I said, you know, I’ve never gotten a position that I’ve applied for.
 
And, and that’s pretty much true. God literally moved me around. If we had a lot longer, I would tell you, but just briefly, I was hired by the US attorney at a very young age, in fact, too young. He had to make a special exception. I was the youngest assistant US Attorney in North Carolina history. I then became chief assistant, where I did a lot of not only federal prosecution but also civil litigation. I then was called one day out of the blue by the US Attorney General and asked if I would like to interview and be his special assistant in drug policy and criminal justice. So I went up and served for a couple years. And then it happened to be that right about that time; the pornography commission had come down. And the Attorney General very much wanted to attack that issue, because it was eroding the very fabric of our families and kids.
 
And, and so he created a task force, which later became known as the Child Exploitation Obscenity Section. And after three times asking me to head it up, I finally did. You can imagine why I was reticent to do that. But God again gave us great favor. I went through that administration, and I became Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, acted as that for a while, and then came out into back into private practice. I was interviewed with a number of large firms but quickly found out that it was going to be very difficult for me to serve where I felt called. In fact, when I was interviewing, I had three potential clients that were, two of them were fairly large Christian ministries. And when I told the people that I was interviewing with, all of them gave different excuses about why I was not going to be able to help them or serve them.
 
But it became very clear to me that Christian, in that area of in DC was, particularly at a young age, I was not going to be able to do that. So I went with a small firm of other Christians. And that’s where I began to learn. I was, I started the litigation section, and we defended a lot of Christian in the business, Christians in the non-profit and churches, particularly a lot of telecoms, Christian radio, and TV stations. And that’s where I realized that’s where Psalm 1 came in play. And that was to give the council to the godly and to protect them for what, it looks like, was going to be an oncoming onslaught to erode, if not destroy, what we’ve known as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, that this country was built on. And that’s where I started; I’ve been doing this now for 25 years in that area. And I’ve had just great opportunities to serve the kingdom of God. In the meantime, Ray, I did get to play a little bit of my pastoring call, I guess. I helped start three churches. And so that’s a little bit about my background. And then I started my own firm about 15 years ago because I was really called to help churches of all sizes, small, medium, and large. And in the firm that I was managing partner of, it was a little bit larger, and it was more difficult to do it in that environment.
 
Ray: That’s perfect. That’s perfect. And Robert, before we move on, you have an incredible resource that you would love to offer up on a free offering to our listeners, would you just, it’s at I believe it’s on the blog link at your website. But would you tell us just a little bit about that free resource that’s available?
 
Robert: Sure. We write legal memos and just about every topic that a church or non-profit or business who’s run by Christians face. And recently we’ve written a number of articles on how can a Christian run his business and do it legally? Because obviously, that’s become a much more difficult task in light of the Supreme Court rulings in Birkenfeld and in Windsor and some of the same-sex here, so we have that article on our website or any of the articles for that matter, I’d love to offer to them free. It’s, you know, it’s a quick read, five or six pages, and I’d love for them to check it out. And it’s got some practical tips on how you may want to do that and do it in a legal fashion. I mean, you know, the usual questions are, you know, can I hire and fire based on faith? Can I spread the gospel in my business? Can I offer a Bible study or something in my business? Those are some of the questions that we begin to address.
 
Ray: That is fantastic. So we’ll reference the site again before we end the interview here. But it’s simmsshowerslaw.com. Well, Robert, let’s kind of learn a little bit about from your background, some of the lessons learned and how, you kind of joked a moment ago about being that proverbial Christian attorney, what’s been the most difficult part about living out your faith in your career and in your work and in the marketplace? What’s been difficult for you? And then we’ll talk about some of the successes in a moment. But what are some of the challenges there for you?
 
Robert: Well, I’d be less than honest and not telling you that there are many.
 
Ray: Yes.
 
Robert: I’d love to say, yeah, being a Christian lawyers an easy thing to do. But it’s not. First of all, in law school, you basically are told how, if you believe in those kind of stuff, that you know, you’re not intellectual, you’re not smart. And that happens, then, throughout the legal practice, if you are able to analyze and think, and creatively and intellectually have a thought process, you’re going to reject, obviously, Christianity. So that comes out in various ways, in the litigation area, probably one of my most difficult tasks has been dealing with other lawyers, and even now, judges who are, quite frankly, very adverse to the values and the morals of my Christian faith. And I’m a very competitive person; I like to win; I have won quite a bit. So when they do things that are unethical or wrong, I’d like to, you know, sort of get down in the mud and, and do something worse.
 
I learned though, that when I prayed to God, and here’s what I prayed for: God just level the playing field for me. All I ask is for a level playing field, and I believe I can, I can do your work. And he has done that in amazing ways. I mean, when lawyers have not followed the court rules or court orders, he has leveled the playing field and allowed me to represent my clients, you know, not only in a godly way but in an effective way. But that’s been one of the challenges to me. Splitting off to the church and non-profit area, one of the challenges for me has been that lawyers, particularly who are churchgoers, or even who are, you know, Christians have a deep desire to help their churches and non-profits. The problem has been, as I mentioned earlier in the program is that this area has become much more complicated. And so they don’t really know what they’re doing.
 
My most difficult cases are if a lawyer has been involved. And so one of the things that I did early in my tenure at Christian Legal Society is to create a series of courses at every National Conference on church and non-profit law to basically be primers for those kind of lawyers to say, hey, here are the areas that you need to know about, here are the resources that you can connect with, and here’s the areas that you know, if you’re stepping into, be aware that that’s not something that you ought to be doing. And I think there’s been great fruit in that. But that’s very, a very difficult area. Since, as you know, every church probably of any size is going to have one or more lawyers or friends of lawyers. Pastors and church boards, I mean, they don’t realize that I mean, they should, but they don’t realize that a lawyer is not a lawyer. There are specialties to this, just like there are in the medical field. So I just deeply desire that the church be protected, deeply desire and have moved into a lot of preventive law, because I’ve been in the courtrooms, and I know even when I win the emotional not just financial, but the emotional toil and impact that it’s had on the clients, and I’d rather them not get into that area and avoid it. And there are many effective ways to avoid that to stay out of the courtroom.
 
Ray: And I think that’s a great segue you referenced earlier the Masterpiece Bakery case that is currently before the US Supreme Court. Walk through some of the wise things that Christians in business need to do to protect themselves from lawsuits and these kind of complications.
 
Robert: Let me separate that, Ray ,if I may, into two areas. Of course, the first area will be the church and non-profit. And the reason I separate that is that is dealing with a whole different area of law, of which the IRS and the State Attorney General’s and the tax-exempt rules apply. And so while there’ll be things that cross over between the for-profit businesses, there are things that are unique to both. So let me start with the church and non-profit. Let’s just focus in, I mean, in general, church and non-profits should begin to look at certain areas when they say, you know, where should I spend my legal dollars if I, if I’m going to spend them? And I said, Well, here are the areas I mean, get a good set of governing documents. Most of the governing documents I look at for churches and non-profits are not only not legally compliant, just are not practically operational.
 
You know, when I look at governing documents, I tell the people, hey, let’s not write these things for the good times, which is what everybody wants to do, you know, warm and fuzzy, let’s write these things for the crisis in dispute. And you’ll know if you have a good set of governing documents if you have written them and you’ve gone through a crisis in dispute, and they have stood the test. The second area, obviously, is the child abuse, child protection area, as you heard, I have a long background in that with the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. And then I did a lot of writing and came up with, with the guy by the name of Rich Hammer, with a number of things early in the ‘90s to how we could reduce the risk of child abuse, particularly in churches and religious non-profits.
 
And so that’s another area that clearly needs to be looked at. And as I say, in that area any longer, it’s not just the policy that you need to be well versed in, but you actually got implemented. Many of these states pass great policies and just don’t do them. You know, when I get in the courtroom, if the pastor is on the stand, or whomever and the other side basically brings up their policy and said, Okay, did you do this background check on this person? Well, I meant to. Did you do your reference checks on this person? Yeah, I meant to. And did you, and, you know, I keep going through the questions, and they’re just asking about, did you implement your policy? And every time you say, no, or I’m not sure, all that jury is doing is writing a zero on the end of your verdict. Because on the other side, you have a victim who’s been abused, and their family or many of them, and you know, they’re looking to hold somebody accountable, obviously, the perpetrators accountable, but they’re looking to hold other people accountable as well. So, you know, implementing that policy is critical. The third area, which actually the most claims come at churches and non-profits is in the employment area.
 
And that’s something that you’ve got to look at it spend time and effort in getting the various employment policies, your agreements or offer letters, knowing how to terminate wisely, how to discipline wisely, getting that down. And again, most churches and non-profits are just horrible at that they’re either too harsh, or they’re too lenient, you know, it’s the old proverb of you higher slowly and fire quick. Generally, it’s just the opposite. They hire quick and fire slowly, which creates all kinds of problems, you know, there are some other areas that you need to look at them in the preventive law. But those are, as I was saying, those are my big areas that I say, let’s take a look at. Now, in the business arena, what is happening, is there are enthusiastic Christians who want to share their faith and want to have a business run for Christ.
 
And so they are good-hearted. But they haven’t thought through what that means. They haven’t thought through that if they’re going to be that kind of business, then they’re going to need to state that in all of their governing documents, that their purpose is to serve Christ and that they’re going to do that if they’re going to have any chance to be a religious corporation and to have the protections, say, that Hobby Lobby did. In the recent case, they’re going to have to be overt, used to be everybody said, we’ll just sort of hide it and do it on the edge. Well, I think Hobby Lobby was a good example. No, you’re going to have to be overt. Yeah, you’re going to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, but you’re going to have to make it clear in your governance and in what you do. I mean, a number of the things the court cited is the fact that Hobby Lobby closes on Sunday is a huge economic burden to them, but a clear show of their faith and their commitment, that these are sincerely held religious beliefs.
 
Or the fact that they’re giving a lot to Christian charities and things like that. So a business owner needs to be aware that if they’re going to do those things, there’s four or five things that they need to consider. And they clearly need to go, both churches and businesses, they need to go to lawyers who are well versed in this area, just to help them set it up and implement it correctly. Because that will I mean, you can spend $5,000 or $10,000 on the front end in cost and save yourself hundreds of thousands, or maybe the destruction of your business or church on the back end.
 
Ray: And we really have reached that point, right? That the case in point, you mentioned the Masterpiece Bakery. And so just generally speaking, why do some of these cases make it all the way to the Supreme Court, why, in some cases, do these Christian owned businesses lose? And in some cases, why have you seen them not even make it to the court? Is that what you’re talking about earlier this place defined documentation and practicality of living? Yeah. Is that is that essentially what we’re talking about in the areas of faith? The court is asking one key question, do you have a sincerely held religious belief? And is it obvious in how you run your church, your non-profit, your business? So for example, if you are saying in your church, we’re not going to allow a practicing homosexual or somebody who’s been involved in a same-sex marriage be a member or leader of our church.
 
Well, on what basis are you making that discriminatory, in the court’s eyes, discriminatory assessment? And if you don’t have, the fact that you have in your articles or bylaws, hey, we’re just following the Bible, and we believe in biblical inerrancy or whatever, that doesn’t do it for the court. What the court’s looking at is okay, how are you interpreting the Bible in this area? Have you stated and cited scripture that you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman? Have you stated that you believe that sex outside of marriage, all sex outside of marriage, is a sin? Have you talked about gender and gender identity?
 
Have you stated that and put it in your some of your top documents and also given me a lot of scriptural or biblical cites, or if you’re in another faith, given me other of your key documents’ cites? If you want to do those kind of differentiation, whether you’re a business or whether you’re a church or a non-profit, you are going to have to clearly show how you have that sincerely held religious beliefs and that sincerely held religious belief is the reason you’re making this determination, not because you’re just a homophobe or you’re just whatever. And not just because the Bible says. That’s way too generic and watered-down response according to the courts, right?
 
Robert: Well, yeah, as the courts have pointed out, people on both sides have interpreted the Bible to either prohibit or allow homosexual behavior or prohibit or allow same-sex marriage. Now some of us would say well, that’s you know, a vast majority believes one way and a minority, but that’s not good enough for the courts. You need to show in this area particularly what that means, and that’s why your statement of belief, your code of conduct becomes very important, particularly if you have a strong feeling on marriage and sexuality.
 
Ray: Yeah. Wow. Folks, we are speaking with Robert Showers, the managing owner of the law firm at Simms Showers LLP and we would love to invite you to check out their website, which is simmsshowerslaw.com. And Robert has pointed out to us earlier that if you click on the blog link there, you’re going to find, I mean, and I’ve been browsing that, and there’s an incredible amount of information there for you, if you’re a church or non-profit leader, a business owner, or what have you, but just some of those legal frameworks and ramifications of how we’re doing things and, and religious protection and those sorts of things. And Robert, there’s always one question that I love to end every interview with; call this our 4:23 question. It’s based out of Proverbs 4:23, where Solomon writes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it determines the course of your life.” And so Robert, if, if we could just take just a moment and let’s imagine you’re the tail end of your existence this side of eternity, what would be the most important piece of advice that you would leave your loved ones with? And I guess that would be the one piece of advice you’ll leave our audience with today.
 
Robert: Well, it’s a two-part answer. The first part is a cliché, and that is in all those circumstances, what would Jesus do? The only way you’re going to know what Jesus will do is if you study the book that he’s written and that God has written to tell you what God or what Jesus would do in those situations. My goal or epitaph, so to speak, would be to be considered to be an impact player for Christ. That in my life, I made an impact in one person or many people’s lives for Christ, whether through transformation or whether discipleship you know, I just think of a number of people that I’ve had the privilege of working with and I hope that’s what they would say, at the end of my life.
 
Ray: My gosh, I feel like you and I’ve become friends. And I bet our audience feels the same way.
 
Robert: Absolutely, Ray.
 
Ray: So, Robert, any closing words that you would offer any closing words that you’d like to share with our audience?
 
Robert: Well, the bottom line is that Christ asked us to be in the culture. We’re not of this world, but we’re in the world, and if we’re in the world, we need to make an impact and don’t be afraid to stand up. The Holy Spirit has got your back, and there are a lot of friends that are there with you. And the bottom line is transformation of people’s lives so that they may not only live out the kingdom of God here on earth but obviously live eternally with Christ. And that’s I think all of our deepest desire, so don’t be afraid.
 
Ray: Don’t be afraid; take that stand. Folks, we have been speaking with Robert Showers, managing owner of Simms Showers LLP you can check them out online at simmsshowerslaw.com; click on their blog link there. There’s an incredible amount of material and content there to help encourage you as you lead your business or church or non-profit for the glory of Christ. I would suggest also checking out the Christian Legal ; learn what some of the resources and tools that they have available to protect and defend us as followers of Christ in the marketplace as well.
 
Well, well folks, we are wrapping up another episode of Bottom Line Faith; check us out at bottomlinefaith.org, and the host ministry here at Bottom Line Faith is Truth At Work. If you’re a Christ-follower running a business or an organization and you want to learn about one of our roundtable groups, where we gather together and encourage and inspire one another and become that advisory board to one another, check out truthatwork.org. Click on the roundtable link there, and you can learn more. Well, folks, I am your host, Ray Hilbert, here at Bottom Line Faith. Thanks so much for joining us. Tune in next time, where we’ll help lift the hood and tinker around in the engine of Christian leadership in the marketplace. God bless; we’ll see you soon.