CHAPTER 187
RELIGIOUS SOCIETIES
SUBCHAPTER I
GENERAL PROVISIONS
187.01   Religious societies.
187.02   Existing societies confirmed; may reorganize.
187.03   Failure to elect trustees.
187.04   Episcopal church.
187.05   Organizations other than churches.
187.06   May take title to property.
187.07   Title to vest in trustees.
187.08   Devolution of property of defunct societies.
187.09   Existing organizations legalized.
187.10   Congregational church.
187.11   Property of Church of Christ or Christian Church.
187.13   Missionary corporations.
187.14   Consolidation of church corporations or congregations.
187.15   Methodist property.
187.16   Salvation Army.
187.17   Eastern Orthodox Church.
187.19   Roman Catholic church.
SUBCHAPTER II
LIABILITY AND INDEMNIFICATION;
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
187.20   Indemnification by incorporated Roman Catholic church; definitions.
187.21   Indemnification of directors and officers.
187.22   Determination of voluntary indemnification.
187.23   Allowance of expenses as incurred.
187.24   Authority to limit indemnification.
187.25   Additional rights to indemnification and allowance of expenses.
187.26   Court-ordered indemnification.
187.27   Indemnification and allowance of expenses of employees and agents.
187.28   Insurance.
187.30   Definitions applicable to liability-related provisions.
187.31   Reliance by directors or officers.
187.32   Limited liability of directors and officers.
187.33   Limited liability of volunteers.
SUBCHAPTER III
LIABILITY; OTHER RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
187.40   Definitions.
187.41   Reliance by directors or officers.
187.42   Limited liability of directors and officers.
187.43   Limited liability of volunteers.
187.44   Applicability of other liability provisions.
subch. I of ch. 187 SUBCHAPTER I
GENERAL PROVISIONS
187.01 187.01 Religious societies.
187.01(1) (1)How formed. The members, over 18 years of age, not less than three in number, of any church or society of any religious sect or denomination which shall have been organized in this state and which, at the time, maintains regular public worship may, after due public notice given at some stated meeting of such church, sect or denomination, and any five or more persons of like age, not members of any religious congregation, desirous of organizing a corporation in connection with a church of their own peculiar tenets to be associated therewith, may organize a corporation for religious, charitable or educational purposes in the manner hereinafter provided.
187.01(2) (2)Certificate. Such members or persons shall sign and acknowledge a certificate substantially in the following form:
Know all by these presents: That the undersigned (insert the names of the signers) and those who are or may become associated with them for the purposes herein specified have organized themselves into a religious society of the .... church (sect or denomination or other description), located in (name of town, village or city), in the county of ...., and state of Wisconsin, for religious, charitable and educational purposes, which society shall be known and incorporated by the name of (here insert the name); and shall record the same in the office of the register of deeds; and when such certificate shall have been so recorded the society named therein shall be a corporation and shall possess the powers and privileges granted to corporations by ch. 181, so far as the same are applicable or necessary to accomplish its purposes, and also such as are conferred by this chapter.
187.01(3) (3)Trustees; number, terms; may hold property. Such corporation may, by its bylaws, fix the number of its trustees, provided that such number be not less than 3, and their term of office, the manner of appointing or electing the same, and the qualifications for membership therein. It may take, receive, purchase, hold and use both the real and personal estate for the purposes of its incorporation and no other; and lease, mortgage, sell and otherwise dispose of the same or any portion thereof as provided by its bylaws; and may also take by purchase, gift or otherwise and forever hold and improve any lands intended to be used for cemetery grounds or burial places, subject to the provisions and restrictions, so far as applicable, in subch. II of ch. 157. Such corporation may hold all lands then owned by it, other than and in addition to the grounds so purchased, and improve the same by the erection of new buildings thereon or otherwise, for the purposes of revenue, to be devoted to the uses of such corporation and in promoting religious and charitable works, and at pleasure lease, mortgage and sell the same. Any such corporation at any meeting which it may hereafter hold for the election of its trustees, whether designated by such corporation as trustees, wardens and vestrymen or otherwise, may make provision by resolution to be entered upon the record of such meeting for the election of its trustees in classes, and determine by such resolution what number or proportion of its trustees shall be comprised in each class, and also the term for which each class shall hold their office; and thereafter, as the term of each class expires, their successors shall be elected in accordance with said resolution. Such corporation by its bylaws may provide for the time and manner of holding regular and special meetings for the holding of elections or for the transaction of all business authorized by law, and such bylaws shall have the force of law and all business transacted thereunder shall be valid.
187.01(4) (4)Notice of first meeting; who may vote. Public notice of the time and place of holding the first meeting of such corporation shall be given to the members of the church, sect or denomination for two successive Sabbaths on which such church, sect or denomination shall statedly meet for public worship, previous to such meeting; such notice may be given by the minister or by one of the elders, deacons, church wardens or vestrymen thereof, or if there be no such officers then by any member; and at such first meeting all the members of such church, sect or denomination over 18 years of age shall be entitled to a vote at such meeting as members; but if such corporation be organized by persons not belonging to any religious congregation the majority of the incorporators named in the certificate, all having notice thereof, may meet at such time and place as they shall deem proper for the purpose of perfecting their organization; and the corporators named in such certificate shall constitute the first board of trustees and hold their office until others are chosen.
187.01(5) (5)Trustees' powers. The secular business and temporal affairs of every such corporation shall be managed and administered by the board of trustees, and they shall have the custody and control of the corporate property and make rules and regulations for the use of the same and for the renting of pews or slips, and the care, improvement and management of the cemetery grounds, subject, however, to the corporate bylaws. They shall appoint a clerk or secretary and a treasurer, with power to remove the same, and shall cause accurate records of all their proceedings and of all business meetings of such society to be kept, and they shall be governed in their official acts by the rules of their church, sect or denomination applicable thereto and not inconsistent with the laws of this state or the constitution and bylaws of the society.
187.01(6) (6)Change of corporate name. The name of such corporation may be changed at any annual or special meeting, by a majority vote of the members present. Notice that the matter of changing its name will be voted upon at such meeting shall be given as is provided by sub. (4) for its first meeting and the same persons may vote thereon.
187.01(7) (7)Amendment of articles. Such corporation may amend its articles of organization or constitution at a regular meeting of said corporation by the majority vote of the members present so that such corporation has the right to merge with and transfer all of its real estate and personal property to another corporation of the same religious denomination. Any other amendments to either the articles of organization or to the constitution of such corporation shall be made in accordance with ss. 181.1002 to 181.1004.
187.01 History History: 1971 c. 213 s. 5; 1975 c. 94 s. 91 (8); 1985 a. 316 s. 25; 1997 a. 79.
187.01 Cross-reference Cross-reference: See s. 182.01 (3) for provision that certain corporate documents may not be filed with secretary of state unless they bear the drafter's name.
187.01 Annotation Ch. 187 applies to incorporated religious organizations. Unincorporated associations derive their rights largely from common law. Trustees of an unincorporated association are not empowered to speak for the association in legal actions without licensed legal counsel. Life Science Church v. Shawano County, 221 Wis. 2d 331, 585 N.W.2d 625 (Ct. App. 1998), 98-0694.
187.01 Annotation Religious societies incorporated under ch. 187 are “persons" within the meaning of s. 32.19 and are entitled to benefits if they otherwise qualify. 63 Atty. Gen. 578.
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2015-16 Wisconsin Statutes updated through 2017 Wis. Act 7 and all Supreme Court and Controlled Substances Board Orders effective on or before May 26, 2017. Published and certified under s. 35.18. Changes effective after May 26, 2017 are designated by NOTES. (Published 5-26-17)