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Parents sue Florida nonprofit for missionary son's death

The Florida Volunteer Protection Act encourages people to work with charitable organizations by providing volunteers with a degree of liability immunity. A non-profit organization is not protected from civil claims. Except for a tax exempt status, many non-profits operate much like for-profit companies and are responsible for workers' safety.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 62 million people volunteered in 2010. Workplace hazards are possible in any paid or unpaid profession. Volunteers in foreign countries may be exposed to life-threatening dangers, as collateral damage in wars and religious and cultural conflicts.

According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, the U.S. sends and receives more missionaries than any other country in the world. U.S. religious volunteers made up one-fourth of the estimated 400,000 missionaries worldwide in 2010.

In 2011, a volunteer evangelist for the Orlando-based non-profit Campus Crusade for Christ was killed in Kazakhstan. The young man was suffocated in a hotel room. The missionary's parents are suing the religious group for wrongful death.

The lawsuit alleges Campus Crusade sent their son on a mission in the southern part of a volatile country, where 70 percent of the population practiced Islam. The volunteer group, including the victim, hid their evangelist identities by talking in "code" and disguising themselves as English teachers.

The Orange County complaint said Campus Crusade knew the volunteers' missionary work was in danger. The volunteer's death occurred around the time laws were passed limiting minority religious groups' rights.

Campus Crusade apparently did not inform the Kazakhstan government of its religious activities within the country, as directed by law. The parents stated the organization "deliberately" and recklessly disregarded the volunteers' safety.

An employee's pay doesn't matter, when it comes to an employer's obligation to protect workers. The lowest paid staff member has a liability claim just as valid as a company president, when negligence causes an injury.

Source:, "Campus Crusade for Christ Blamed for Death" Deshayla Strachan, Nov. 22, 2013

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