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Theresa Lynn Sidebotham

Theresa Sidebotham assists organizations in the U.S. and internationally, with a special focus on employment law, religious and nonprofit law, and child safety. She advises on numerous misconduct investigations.

Although Theresa was born in New York, her parents arrived in Indonesia just in time for the "Year of Living Dangerously," and her family was among the few foreigners who stayed in Jakarta through the Communist coup and counter-coup. Fortunately, she was too small to remember any of it, including the death threats. Her parents started work with the Sundanese years before the term "unreached people group" was coined, and she grew up in West Java, making her a Third Culture Kid or Missionary Kid. Like many TCK/MKs, she has lived in 7 countries for a summer or more and learned—and mostly forgotten—7 languages if you include English. Her schooling included international school, missionary boarding school, private Christian school and American public school, though mostly home school—of the "have these books finished before the end of the school year" variety.

She left for Wheaton College with no visible means of support when she was 16, going on 17. There she met her husband Bruce, who was on a full ROTC scholarship for the U.S. Army. Theresa graduated in the top 1% of the class and decided to be a military wife. The four Sidebotham boys were born on three different continents. After Bruce’s military service and further education, the family headed to Sumatra for seven years.

In Sumatra, Theresa managed a tri-lingual household in a fairly primitive setting. She taught English literature in a university, and helped start a quilting home industry for under-privileged women there. Daily life in their home included her four sons; a small international school that she ran with students from at least four different countries; her husband's office and coworker; her household helpers and their child; and a constant stream of visitors, some from remote villages. Their most terrifying family adventure was the time her husband and some friends were in the crater of an active volcano when it erupted. No one in their group was killed, but Theresa helped evacuate two of the victims to Singapore, and her husband carries the burn scars to this day.

After coming back to the U.S. for family reasons, Bruce stayed in ministry. Theresa spent some time homeschooling their sons, then started law school with her four sons still at home. Law school was a relaxing change, and she graduated first in her class in 2005.

Theresa was mentored by judges at the Colorado Court of Appeals and worked at a large law firm serving religious institutions and doing general litigation before opening Telios Law. She has since gone on to represent a variety of businesses, ministries, churches, and individual clients in matters ranging from child protection to employment to civil rights and more. Her cross-cultural experience helps her serve ministries and businesses well, particularly in negotiating employment problems and conducting internal investigations into misconduct allegations.

Learn more about her current practice areas.

    Representative Experience

    Theresa has represented a variety of businesses, ministries, churches, and individual clients in advising, litigation and on appeal. She has:

    • Won a favorable decision in Acker v. Grayson, (Colo. App. No. 12CA1462, Feb. 13, 2014) (not published pursuant to C.A.R. 35(f)) (real estate business litigation);
    • Litigated prevailing party attorney fees in federal court;
    • As lead counsel, won a special education due process hearing (4-day bench trial) against a school district;
    • Conducted motions practice, managed cases, and negotiated civil and commercial litigation that included personal injury, contract, construction, property, and insurance cases;
    • Represented religious organizations in several states in litigation defense;
    • Advised missions, churches and nonprofits on legal and policy issues, including child protection and safety, religious free exercise, and employment law;
    • As lead counsel, won a favorable decision in J.C. v. Dungarvin Colorado, LLC, by briefing and arguing an appellate case of first impression that interpreted statutes providing civil liability immunity for developmental disability providers;
    • As lead counsel, obtained summary judgment defending a plaintiff's suit against a Property Owners Association;
    • As sole counsel, successfully mediated special education due process complaints;
    • Drafted an extensive client legal review for a major religious organization and assisted in managing the related legal team for a six-month period;
    • Written a number of appellate briefs; 
    • At the Colorado Court of Appeals, done the preliminary research and drafting for close to 200 judicial opinions.

    Public Speaking

    • "Complaints, Cybersecurity, and Currency," September 2018, CLS
    • "Trends and Trials in Employment Law," Missio Nexus, September 2018
    • "Defining Abuse in Difficult Cases: Handling the Not-so-Clear-cut Scenarios," CSPN, April 2018
    • "Creating a Safe Culture," CLS/ECFA, April 2018
    • "Crisis Management in Global Missions," Missio Nexus, January 2018
    • "Legal Issues in Setting up Psychological Evaluations," Psychology & Law Seminar, November 2017
    • "Caregiving for Those Involved in Abuse Investigations," Missio Nexus, September 2017
    • "Yes, They Changed the Rules Again: Updates on Employment Law," Missio Nexus, September 2017
    • "What Your Mission Needs to Know About Internal Employment Investigations," Missio Nexus, September 2017
    • "Legal Issues with Crisis Management," Risk Management Network, September 2017
    • "Bullying 101: Defining, Responding Preventing," Child Safety Protection Network, April 2017
    • "Religious Liberty in the Public Square," Public Debate hosted by CCU's Centennial Institute with Theresa Sidebotham of Telios Law PLLC and Dr. Alex McFarland vs. Michael L.“Mikey” Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and Professor Scott Moss of CU-Boulder, April 2017
    • "On Appeal? Process, Pointers, and Pitfalls for the Non-Appellate Attorney," Solo & Small Firm, February 2017
    • “Inspired HR: The Intersection of Law, Spirituality, and Common Sense” (for businesses), Colorado Christian College Employer Congress, February 2017
    • “Legal Issues for Employment Screening and Testing,” Missio Nexus, September 2016; Psychology and Law Conference, November 2016
    • “Women in the Law Panel,” Christian Legal Society National Conference, October 2016
    • “Inspired HR: The Intersection of Law, Spirituality, and Common Sense,” (for nonprofits) Missio Nexus, September 2016
    • "Avoiding the Quicksand: Sticky but Common Problems in Child Safety Investigations," Child Safety & Protection Network, April 2016
    • "Religious Liberty or Discrimination? Two Views," together with Jeremy Shaver from ADL, "Experts in Controversies" series of the Academy Town Hall, March 2016
    • "On Appeal? Process, Pointers, and Pitfalls for the Non-Appellate Attorney," Continuing Legal Education Seminar, February 2016 and March 2016 (with Jessica Ross)
    • "You’ve Just Been Asked to Investigate Child Abuse: What Happens Next?" (with Autumn Ascano), Mental Health in Missions, November 2015
    • "Handling a Leadership Misconduct Matter," CLS National, October 2015
    • 'You’re Not Xerox ™, So Don’t Just Copy: How (and When) Employment Law Applies to Missions HR," Missio Nexus, September 2015
    • "Safety of Children in Missions—the Executive View" (with Eleanor Berry, CFO of SIL), Missio Nexus, September 2015
    • "Peace at Work: Balancing Religious Exercise Rights of Employers and Employees," CLA Panel, June 2015
    • "Handling an Allegation of Leadership Misconduct," CLA Panel, Summer 2015
    • "Social Media: How Your Organization Can Use it Effectively and Wisely in the Changing Culture," CLA Panel, February 2015
    • "Effective and Appropriate Caring and Communicating During an Investigation," Child Safety Protection Network, January 2015
    • "Protecting the Rights of Children with Special Needs," National Business Institute, December 2014
    • "Ethics in Special Education Law," National Business Institute, December 2014
    • "Successfully Handling Disciplinary Actions for Special Needs Students," National Business Institute, December 2014
    • "Panel: Legal/Ethical Overview Case Study for Counselors," Mental Health in Missions, November 2014
    • "Wonder Woman: Navigating the Challenges of Filings, Faith, and Families," Christian Legal Society National Conference, October 2014
    • "Getting it Right, Healing the Wrong: Legal Issues in Protecting Children and Organizations from Child Sexual Abuse"
      - OPC Presbytery, September 2014
      - General Assembly, PCA, June 2014
      - Rocky Mountain Presbytery, PCA, May 2014
    • "Special Education and Children with Significant Disabilities: Rights, Remedies, and Resources," Special Kids Special Families, March 2014
    • "Biblical Basis for Child Safety Practices and Inquiry Processes," CSPN Annual Conference, January 2014 (with Keith Robinson, Global Safety Director, SIL)
    • "Legal Pitfalls to Avoid in Investigation and Document Management," CSPN Annual Conference, January 2014
    • "Child Protection: From Prevention to Responses," Christian Legal Society National Conference, October 2013
    • "Being Nice Keeps You Out of Court: Issues in Employee Management," Non-Profit Leadership Forum, September 2013
    • "Same-Sex Civil Unions and Impact on Religious Liberties," Christian Leadership Alliance Panel Discussion, May 2013
    • “Refresh Your Employment Law Map:  Potential Road Blocks and Traffic Jams for Ministries,” Religious Law Network, April 2013; Missio Nexus, September 2013
    •  “Getting it Right, Healing the Wrong:  Protecting Children and Organizations from Child Sexual Abuse,” Rocky Mountain Evangelical Missiological Society, March 2013; Missio Nexus, September 2013
    • “How Child Sexual Abuse Litigation Works,” CSPN Annual Conference, January 2013
    • “Lessons Learned from the Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal,” CSPN Annual Conference, January 2013
    • “Persons With Disabilities:  Intersections with Family Law and Juvenile Law,” Colorado Springs Multidisciplinary Panel, January 2013
    • “Not Breaking a Bruised Reed:  Persons with Disabilities and Intersections in Practice,” Christian Legal Society, January 2013
    • “Anatomy of a Lawsuit,” SYNC Personnel Conference 2012, November 2012
    • “Using the Discovery Process as a Litigator,” Christian Legal Society National Conference, October 2012 (with Scott M. Browning)
    • “Charting the Reefs:  Identifying and Avoiding Legal and Financial Threats to Your Ministry’s Future,” Religious Law Network, October 2012
    • "Third Culture Kids--Children of Nowhere or Global Citizens?" Colorado Springs Downtown Rotary Club, May 2012
    • "The Blood of the Martyrs and Legal Liability," Rocky Mountain Regional Evangelical Missiological Society Conference, April 2012
    • “Religion and Public Schools:  Reconciling Personal Faith and the School’s Role,” keynote address, ACLU Winter Forum, January 2012
    • “Expression of Religion in Public Schools,” Christian Legal Society, January 2012
    • “Are Protestant Ministries a New Market?”  American Society of Missiology Symposium on Children at Risk, June 2011; RJ&L Religious Institutions Law Day, September 2011; Christian Legal Society National Conference, October 2011.
    • “Strategies and Solutions for School Issues Panel Discussion,” Conference on Juvenile Delinquency Practice:Translating Current Research into Convincing Advocacy, March 2011
    • “Watch Your Step!  A Case Study on a Special Education Due Process Dispute,” Colorado League of Charter Schools, February 2010
    • “Religious Education and the Public Schools—Going Beyond Sunday School,” RJ&L Religious Institutions Law day, October, 2009 (co-speaker)
    • “Special Education and Disability Law Considerations for Child Welfare,” Summit on Children, Youth and Families in Keystone, June 2009
    • “As I Was Walking With St. Ives:  Christian Attorneys Building the Unseen City,” Christian Legal Society Regional Conference, April 2009
    • “Handling Developmental Disabilities in Delinquency and D&N Cases,” Juvenile Hot Law Topics, March 2009>
    • “The Statutory Framework for Special Education,” Office of the Child’s Representative Conference, February 2009
    • “I Haven’t the Slightest IDEA:  A Special Education Overview,” Christian Legal Society, November 2008
    • “Special Education and Child Welfare Law,” Juvenile Law Bar CLE, November 2008


    • "On Appeal? Process, Pointers, and Pitfalls for the Non-Appellate Attorney" (with Jessica Ross), Practice Guide, February 2016
    • "Handling an Allegation of Leadership Misconduct," The Christian Lawyer, July 2015
    • "The Importance of Preservation to Winning a Civil Appeal" (with Jessica Ross), El Paso Country Bar Journal, June 2015
    • "Peace at Work: Balancing Religious Exercise Rights of Employers and Employees," The Colorado Lawyer, June 2015 (with Jessica Ross)
    • “The Story of GINA, or Who Knew Genetic Information Could Cause So Much Trouble?” ACSI Legal Legislative Update, Fall 2014
    • "Getting it Right, Healing the Wrong: Legal Issues in Protecting Children and Organizations from Child Sexual Abuse," Evangelical Missiological Society annual publication, 2014
    • "Survey of Nonprofit Risk Management," ACSI Legal Legislative Update, Winter 2013
    • "The Rock and the Hard Place," a blog on legal and psychological issues for missions, (with Dr. Brent Lindquist)
    • Juvenile Law Benchbookfor Colorado, authored 130 page section on "Serving Children With Disabilities," at, July 2009, updated 2011
    • “Are Protestant Ministries a New Market?  Lessons Learned From the Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal,” a paper presented at the 2011 conference of the American Society of Missiology (written with L. Martin Nussbaum)
    • “Expression of Religion in Public Schools,” The Colorado Lawyer, November 2011
    • "An Overview of Special Education Law--Part I," The Colorado Lawyer, January 2009
    • "An Overview of Special Education Law--Part II," The Colorado Lawyer, March 2009
    • "Elements of a Successful Appellate Brief," The Colorado Lawyer, June 2008 (with Aaron Einhorn)
    • "Interested Parties in Juvenile Dependency and Neglect Cases," The Colorado Lawyer, August 2004
    • “Nonprofit Waivers Just Got More Complicated and Less Effective,” First Freedom, September 2011
    • “Colorado Protects Nonprofits and Volunteers from Liability,” First Freedom, September 2011
    • “Looking After Orphans at New Life Church,” First Freedom, Fall 2009
    • "Writing Appellate Briefs," The Colorado Lawyer, June 2008 (with Aaron Einhorn)
    • "Interested Parties in Juvenile Dependency and Neglect Cases," The Colorado Lawyer, August 2004
    • "Immigration Policies and the War on Terrorism," Denver Journal of International Law & Policy, Summer 2004
    • "The Problem of MK Vulnerability," Psychology for Living, March/April 1999

    Professional Involvement

    • Admitted to practice in the states of Colorado and Texas, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals
    • Member, El Paso County and Colorado Bar Associations
    • Member, Christian Legal Society Colorado Springs (starting 2009); Workshop Subcommittee for National Conference (2012); Board Member (2012-2014); President (starting 2017)
    • Christian Leadership Alliance: Board Member (2013-2015), Board President (starting 2015)
    • Allied Attorney & Honor Corps Member, Alliance Defending Freedom

    Community Involvement

    • Member of the Digital Images Task Force (starting 2016)
    • Chair, Wheaton College Alumni Club Committee, Colorado Springs (starting 2006)
    • Board Member, Homeward Pikes Peak (2013-2016) (then pro bono counsel)
    • Rotary Club of Colorado Springs (2011-2015), Community Service Fund Committee (2011-2013), Board Member (2013-2015)
    • Board Member, Special Kids Special Families (2012-2014)
    • Member, Evangelical Missiological Society (2012-2014)
    • Member, Denver Mile High Rotary Club (Spring 2008-2009), and Community Service Fund Chair
    • Member, Denver Metro Board of Christian Legal Society (2007-2009)
    • Chair, Christian Legal Society regional conference committees (2006-2007; 2008-2009)
    • Taught Evidence and Trial Practice to Middle School Mock Trial Teams (May 2005)
    • Chair of Fund-raising for Doherty High School Band and YMCA Swim Team (1998-2001)
    • Coached Masters and Youth competitive swim teams, Garden Ranch YMCA, Colorado Springs (1998-2000)
    • Organized and supervised a small school for expatriates, Padang, Sumatra (1994-1996)
    • Helped establish Pamato Minang, a home industry for women in Sumatra (1995)
    • Secretary for an Indonesian foundation that provided surgery to repair cleft palates of low-income Indonesian children in Sumatra (1992)
    • Created and taught English literature classes at a university in Indonesia (1989-1990)
    Employment & Experience


    • Colorado, October 2005; District of ColoradoTenth Circuit;
    • Texas, October 2013
    • Supreme Court of the United States, March 2019


    Prior Legal Employment

    • Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons, LLP (July 2009 to January 2012)
    • Colorado Court of Appeals (August 2005 to June 2009)


      Education & Training

      University of Denver Sturm College of Law

      • Juris Doctor 2005
      • Class rank #1
      • Faculty Prize and Order of Saint Ives

      Wheaton College

      • Bachelor of Arts, Literature
      • Class Rank #5.5, GPA 3.91
      • Summa cum laude
      • Scholastic Honor Society

      Columbia International University

      • Approximately one year of masters-level credits in linguistics, cross-cultural communication, and religion