Amy Coney Barrett by Rachel Malehorn / CC BY 3.0

How Amy Coney Barrett could change the Supreme Court’s balance on religious liberty

Oct 23, 2020

By Jack Jenkins

Since the moment Judge Amy Coney Barrett was announced as President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, debate has swirled around how Barrett’s Catholic faith might affect how she would rule on various issues — especially abortion.

But some scholars and legal observers say that when it comes to questions of religion and politics, Barrett’s appearance on the court may have an outsized impact on a broader faith-related portion of U.S. policy: religious liberty.

Elizabeth Reiner Platt, director of The Law, Rights and Religion Project at Columbia Law School, said there are “certainly” indications that Barrett will push the court toward a narrow understanding of religious liberty, one that is being espoused by conservative Christian legal groups.

Barrett has ties to the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that fought against same-sex marriage for years and in 2018 was part of the legal team that won the Supreme Court case for the owner of Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop, who had refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple for religious reasons. (ADF is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a characterization ADF disputes.)

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