Over the last few days, many religious organizations have been asking questions about how the Obergefell decision, holding that the U.S. Constitution requires states to license same sex marriages, will affect their ministries and how they can preserve their religious freedom rights. There are conflicting voices among the opinions released Friday, June 26. Justice Kennedy in the majority opinion wrote, “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths…” Obergefell, et al., v. Hodges, et al., No. 14-556, 2015 U.S. LEXIS 4250, at *48-49 (U.S. June 26, 2015). Conversely, Chief Justice Roberts in his dissent said, “Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.” Id. at *92 (Roberts, C.J., dissenting).
It is important to consider how this decision, and other recent developments, may affect your ministry’s religious freedom rights. This article contains some practical tips to help your ministry strengthen and better express its religious identity and mission so that it will remain free to bring hope and healing to future generations of people in need. Many ministries have, over time, pro-actively implemented many of the tips below to address a broad range of legal, regulatory, liability, and funding issues. Gammon & Grange, P.C. has been advising religious nonprofits about protecting their religious liberty and promoting their ministry purposes for more than 35 years and will provide more extensive guidance, both written and oral, on each of these issues in a webinar on Tuesday, July 7 at 2:00pm EST. Please click on the following link to either sign up for the webinar or request additional information on the topic: http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07eb7vqk2vibjfd2b9/start
Your ministry’s religious identity – the understanding of the purposes for which it was established, what it does, and why it does it – is the foundation for its service to God and to others. An important part of maintaining that religious identity and the freedom to faithfully serve is making certain that the ministry clearly and consistently articulates how faith permeates its work. It should be evident from its documents and practices that religious faith is at the heart of its mission and services. How well your ministry does this may determine its ability to maintain its religious character and core values that motivate it to selflessly serve others.