Written by Don Byrd

Last month I reviewed the top religious liberty stories of 2017. Here is a brief preview of the stories I am watching in 2018.

  1. The Supreme Court is expected to issue their ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case by the end of June. That case involves a Colorado baker’s refusal on religious grounds to provide a custom cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding celebration. Of all the religious liberty stories in the news, this one generated the most conversation among family and friends during the holidays. Of course, I am interested in which side the court comes down on, but also important will be the parameters of the majority opinion. What will the new rule be? How are the lines drawn? For more info on this case, see the BJC’s Masterpiece Cakeshop resource page.
  2. I am also watching to see whether the Supreme Court will take up another legislative prayer case this year. In Lund v. Rowan County (NC), the 4th Circuit ruled unconstitutional a county commission’s practice of opening meetings with prayers led by the commissioners themselves. That case has been appealed to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the 6th Circuit found a similar practice constitutional in Bormuth v. Jackson County (MI). The Supreme Court may decide to take up one or both cases to resolve this dispute.
  3. The fight to protect the Johnson Amendment is likely not over. In 2017, a grassroots coalition including the Baptist Joint Committee successfully fought back against congressional efforts to undo that provision in the law protecting congregations from political exploitation. But already opponents of the Johnson Amendment are looking for other legislative vehicles to weaken or repeal it altogether, fulfilling a campaign promise made by President Trump.
  4. Two cases involving memorial crosses on government land – one in Bladensburg, Maryland and the other in Pensacola, Florida – made news in 2017 and could be even bigger stories in 2018 as they wind through the courts. 

More generally, because 2018 is a federal election year, I will be paying attention to campaign rhetoric. Unfortunately, political campaigns increasingly seek to divide voters along lines of religion and religious identity. As campaigns heat up in the second half of the year, that is a story worth watching. We should all stay attentive to the subtle (and not so subtle) ways religion is misused for political purposes. And you can help me stay on top of that issue. When candidates in your state or congressional district address issues related to religion, send me an e-mail or a tweet (@BJCBlog) with that information. 

Most of all, I want to thank BJCBlog readers for being such loyal followers of the blog, for your generous and essential contributions to the BJC, for sharing blog stories with your friends and family through social media, and for your helpful feedback throughout the year. I couldn’t do it without you! I am hopeful that 2018 is a year of peace and joy, happiness and health for all.