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  1. UPDATED: The biggest religious freedom case of 2017, Masterpiece Cakeshop, held oral arguments today.

    The case of a Christian baker in Colorado who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding gets its big day in court today. While Jack Phillips’s legal team has emphasized his right to artistic expression as a cake decorator, many following his US Supreme Court case focus on another legal matter at stake: religious freedom.

    Advocates on both sides anticipate Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commissionwill set a nationwide precedent for whether the government can require businesses, organizations, and individuals to act against their own sincerely held religious beliefs—particularly following the legalization of same-sex marriage and equal rights granted to LGBT Americans.

    As CT previously reported, Phillips’s refusal to bake the same-sex wedding cake in 2012 violated Colorado’s antidiscrimination law, and a state appeals court denied his free speech and free exercise claims. This spring, the high court opted to hear Phillips’s case, one of several cases involving Christian wedding vendors (such as florists, photographers, and caterers) currently making their way through state judicial systems.

    Oral arguments in the case begin today at the Supreme Court. Most commentators expect Masterpiece Cakeshop will be a tight decision come spring, even with religious liberty defender Neil Gorsuch on the bench.

    With Gorsuch, “there is some reason for optimism that the Court might narrowly find for Masterpiece Cakeshop,” Christian historian Thomas Kidd recently wrote for The Gospel Coalition. “If they do not, it will be a devastating blow to a number of Christian business people who have been disciplined under similar circumstances.

    “A decision against Masterpiece Cakeshop...

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  2. Four research-based solutions beyond Mike Pence’s ‘Billy Graham Rule.’

    Nearly four decades have passed since women began entering the workforce in droves, and men and women are still grappling with how to work alongside one another. Since The New York Timespublished an exposé of film executive Harvey Weinstein, sexual harassment allegations have roiled the country, taking down high-powered men from newsrooms, Hollywood, Wall Street, and Washington, DC. Hundreds of women have stepped forward to share their stories of sexual misconduct in the workplace.

    As a survivor of sexual assault, I celebrate the courage of women who have finally spoken truth to power. However, as a researcher and leadership consultant, I watch these developments with some anxiety and worry about the implications for women in the workplace.

    For over a decade, I’ve studied the barriers for Christian women in leadership. Like their secular peers, many Christian women encounter leadership limitations as a result of failure to be included in “the old boys club.” That exclusion dramatically reduces their ability to participate in critical decision-making processes.

    In the context of these common workplace dynamics, a key question emerges: Will good men in leadership, out of fear of false sexual harassment allegations, withdraw even further from women in the workplace?

    In 1948, Billy Graham and a few of his associates drafted the Modesto Manifesto in response to evangelists whose ministries had been derailed by sexual immorality. They pledged to “avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion.” This commitment—although only part of the overall manifesto—became well-known as the “Billy Graham Rule,” in which men vow to not be alone with...

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  3. (UPDATED) Trump promise to let churches make political endorsements blocked by Senate rule.

    President Donald Trump’s biggest religious freedom policy promise to evangelicals—repealing the Johnson Amendment—will no longer take place via Republican tax reform.

    A Democratic senator announced Thursday night that the repeal included in the House version of the tax bill, which would allow churches and other nonprofits to endorse candidates without losing their tax-exempt status, was removed during the reconciliation process with the Senate version, which did not include a repeal.

    According to Senator Ron Wyden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, the Johnson Amendment repeal was blocked by the Senate parliamentarian. Because of a requirement called the Byrd Rule, reconciliation bills—which are passed through a simple Senate majority—cannot contain “extraneous” provisions that don’t primarily deal with fiscal policy, The Wall Street Journal reported.

    Trump made political speech by churches a major part of his president platform, and since taking office has repeatedly brought up his pledge to “totally destroy” the 1954 tax code provision named for Lyndon B. Johnson. Trump saw the Johnson Amendment as a restriction on religious groups’ free speech rights, since it prevents any nonprofit from opposing or endorsing a political candidate—therefore keeping political contributions from becoming tax-deductible.

    Democrats have opposed the measure, and Wyden said he was pleased they prevented the repeal and would “continue to fight all attempts to eliminate this critical provision.”

    Republican Senator James Lankford, a Southern Baptist and religious liberty advocate, criticized the move to block the measure.

    “The federal government...

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