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SALT LAKE CITY — The cheering by conservative faith groups over a dominant Supreme Court win in the case of a church-run preschool on June 26 may be short-lived, legal experts say, as the court’s decision masks ongoing disagreement among justices when religious liberty collides with other legal protections.
“The court still appears to be pretty fractured on many church-state issues,” said Melissa Rogers, a nonresident senior scholar with the Brookings Institution who formerly headed faith-based partnerships under the Obama administration.
That should trouble the conservative, religious Americans celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision to review Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission this fall, experts said. The case asks whether the free exercise and free speech clauses of the First Amendment protect small business owners with religious objections to taking part in same-sex marriages.
“It’s perfectly possible here to protect the rights of same-sex couples and religious dissenters, but neither (conservative nor liberal justices) seem much interested in doing that,” said Douglas Laycock, a leading religious liberty scholar and law professor at the University of Virginia.
The case will likely come down to a single vote, illustrating the risks of relying on the Supreme Court to steer the direction of religious freedom law, said Frederick Gedicks, a law professor at Brigham Young University.
“It’s an all-or-nothing game. It’s not like the Utah Compromise where each side gets something,” he said, referring to state-level legislation that sought to balance the needs of the LGBT community and religious believers.
To read the full article on the Deseret News, click here.