What Can Nonprofits and Churches Learn from the Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision?

In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important ruling related to religious liberty in its decision for Masterpiece Cakeshop. The Court held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the cake shop’s religious liberty rights when it sanctioned the shop for refusing to create a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony.

While the Court kept its focus narrowly on the specific and unique facts of this particular case, the perspectives offered in the Court’s opinion offer several key takeaways for churches and nonprofits in effectively and graciously defending religious liberties in the future.

Stuart Lark and John Wylie of the Sherman & Howard law firm have published an insightful memorandum which details the important nuances of the Supreme Court’s decision, and how churches and nonprofits can learn from the Court’s language and premises to best prepare themselves for effective ministry and the preservation of their religious liberty.

Among Lark’s and Wylie’s observations are the following recommendations:

  • The Court affirmed the right to freedom of religious exercise. Therefore, it is important for a church or a ministry to “determine the standards through which the organization exercises and expresses its beliefs” and to document those standards in one or more policies.
  • The Court repeatedly emphasized the concept of protecting the dignity of gay persons and gay couples. Thus, a church or a ministry should integrate “theological understandings of dignity and worth into its beliefs and standards,” remembering that each person is created in God’s image, and that his or her dignity ultimately flows from the cross.
  • Organizations should strive to demonstrate gratitude, gentleness, and respect in communicating their beliefs and applying their standards.

To read the full memo from Sherman & Howard, click here.


Source: Lark, Stuart and Wylie, John, July 10, 2018, Sherman & Howard, L.L.C., Colorado Springs, CO.


UPDATE on August 16, 2018:  Despite this favorable ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Jack Phillips is once again facing a legal battle with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission—this time for declining the request to bake a custom cake for an attorney who wanted to celebrate transitioning from male to female. To read more about these developments, click here for a summary from Jack Phillips’ legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom.    

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.


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