By Kelsey Dallas / Deseret News

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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.

However, even high-profile victories for a church or faithful baker can harm religious freedom, said Holly Hollman, general counsel and associate executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Supreme Court cases sometimes make conscience rights look like a weapon to be used against others, rather than a First Amendment freedom everyone can support.

“I still think most Americans would claim that religious liberty is important, a bedrock principle and a fundamental value,” she said. “But today, a lot of the conflicts over religious freedom are confusing to people or they threaten to divide people or harm people.” 

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