Religious Liberty After Obergefell v. Hodges

Now that that Supreme Court has determined that “[t]he Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex,”[1] how will the Court’s decision impact religious organizations and individuals?  According to the four dissenting justices, the ruling means trouble ahead for religious organizations and individuals with conflicting religious beliefs.  In particular, the ruling portends new court battles between their constitutional religious liberty interests and developing laws that provide increasing sexual orientation and gender identity (“SOGI”) protection in areas such as employment, education, facility usage, and housing.

In Obergefell, a majority of five Justices determined that same-sex couples have a “fundamental right to marry,” arising out of liberty protections under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.  In so ruling, the Court reversed the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal’s ruling[2] that states may define “marriage” as they wish.  Instead the Court sided with other federal courts that ruled unconstitutional state laws that limited marriage to unions between one man and one woman.    

Speaking for the majority, Justice Kennedy only briefly touched on religious liberty considerations, saying, “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.”  Notably, there was mention of neither religious exercise, as guaranteed under the First Amendment’s free exercise clause, nor broader protections to be recognized for faith-based organizations beyond churches.

Mandated Reporter Essentials

With summer on the horizon and many nonprofit organizations gearing up for youth-centered activities, nonprofits that serve children need to help their paid staff and volunteers understand applicable mandatory reporting requirements.  While there has been a general downward trend over the last 20 years, sadly the problems of child abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse remain pervasive.  In 2013, there were 3.1 million reported incidents, an estimated 679,000 victims, and 1,520 child victims died.[1] Both state and federal governments have enacted statutes that require certain individuals to report suspected incidents of child abuse and neglect.  The reporting obligations are thus critical for protecting children. 

By way of historical background, the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) of 1974 grants the U.S. government broad powers to “protect the interests of children and intervene when parents fail to provide proper care.”[2] CAPTA provides funding to the states to help prevent and treat victims of child abuse and neglect.  The grants are contingent upon the state implementing laws and programs that mandate certain individuals to report incidents related to child abuse and neglect.[3]

The federal funding incentive worked; all fifty states have implemented mandatory reporting statutes.  The Illinois legislature enacted the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (ANCRA) forty years ago.  Since then, the Act has been amended several times and now lists over forty professions required to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.  In May of 2015, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services revised its Manual for Mandated Reporters, available here.  The manual lists who must report, when they must report, and how to make a report. 

Better Together: Washington State Expands Self-Insurance Risk Pools to Nonprofits

 Insurance can be expensive, but not having insurance is sometimes even more costly!  One solution within many industries is risk pooling – that is, to join with others and effectively self-insure together, thereby spreading out risk and bringing down overall costs for protecting property and against liability.  The insurance industry itself, however, is highly regulated and therefore requires state authorization for such programs.  State-authorized self-insurance risk pools seem to be gaining traction in the nonprofit sector, with Florida, California and Washington State leading the way.