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New session of Supreme Court turns focus on religious free speech

The first Monday in October marks the beginning of a new session for the U.S. Supreme Court, and First Amendment advocates are, again, seeking relief from unrelenting secularism that would stymie free speech, compel unwanted speech, and drive religious faith from the public square.

The justices met in conference Monday, Sept. 25, to consider cases for review. Among them is National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, in which a pro-life center is challenging a California statute that requires it to post a notice informing clients where they can receive a state-funded abortion. Court orders from the Monday conference could be posted as early as Thursday.

Two Bloomfield, N.M., residents are suing their city over its courthouse lawn display of the Ten Commandments. The complainants argue the Ten Commandments display violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and is offensive. Conflicting rulings from the high court on similar cases have prompted the city to ask for a hearing.

The most anticipated case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, could determine whether private business owners can operate their businesses according to their religious convictions. The high court could hear that case by December. Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, who represent Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, have asked the court also to hear the case of Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman, who, like Phillips, declined to provide service for a same-sex wedding because it conflicted with her Biblical convictions about marriage. 

— by Bonnie Pritchett

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