Photo: Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a high-profile case that could reshape the bounds of First Amendment protections for religion.

Why it matters: The direct question in this case is whether Philadelphia had the right to cancel a contract with an adoption agency that refused to place foster children with same-sex couples. It also poses bigger questions that could lead the court to overturn a key precedent and carve out new protections for religious organizations.

Details: The First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion, but that doesn't allow one to invoke religious beliefs to "ignore generally applicable laws," the Supreme Court said in a 1990 decision.

  • In this case, Philadelphia says its refusal to work with organizations that discriminate against same-sex couples is a "generally applicable" law — it applies to everyone, no matter their religion, and so there does not need to be a religious exemption.
  • The adoption agency, backed by conservative legal advocates, says the city's policy is not neutral, but rather is a specific intrusion on Christian organizations' ability to abide by their religious beliefs.

What to watch: The Supreme Court will not only decide who's right in this specific dispute, but has also asked whether it should "revisit" the underlying 1990 precedent.

  • Under Chief Justice John Roberts, people who come to the court claiming a violation of their free-exercise rights usually win.

The bottom line: The Roberts court's record, plus the fact that it's inviting a challenge to its own precedents, indicates that it's open to a more expansive view of religious freedom — which could ultimately weaken a host of other nondiscrimination policies well beyond Philadelphia's.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 33,976,447 — Total deaths: 1,014,266 — Total recoveries: 23,644,023Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 7,233,945 — Total deaths: 206,959 — Total recoveries: 2,840,688 — Total tests: 103,939,667Map.
  3. Education: School-aged children now make up 10% of all U.S COVID-19 cases.
  4. Health: Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine won't be ready until 2021
  5. Travel: CDC: 3,689 COVID-19 or coronavirus-like cases found on cruise ships in U.S. waters — Airlines begin mass layoffs while clinging to hope for federal aid
  6. Business: Real-time data show economy's rebound slowing but still going.
  7. Sports: Steelers-Titans NFL game delayed after coronavirus outbreak.
Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump signs stopgap bill to prevent government shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and President Trump arrives at the U.S. Capitol in March. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

President Trump signed a bill to extend current levels of government funding after funding expired briefly, White House spokesperson Judd Deere confirmed early Thursday.

Why it matters: The move averts a government shutdown before the Nov. 3 election. The Senate on Wednesday passed the legislation to fund the federal government through Dec. 11, by a vote of 84-10.

Updated 3 hours ago - Science

In photos: Deadly wildfires devastate California's wine country

The Shady Fire ravages a home as it approaches Santa Rosa in Napa County, California, on Sept. 28. The blaze is part of the massive Glass Fire Complex, which has razed over 51,620 acres at 2% containment. Photo: Samuel Corum/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images

More than 1,700 firefighters are battling 26 major wildfires across California, including in the heart of the wine country, where one mega-blaze claimed the lives of three people and forced thousands of others to evacuate this week.

The big picture: More than 8,100 wildfires have burned across a record 3.9 million-plus acres, killing 29 people and razing almost 7,900 structures in California this year, per Cal Fire. Just like the deadly blazes of 2017, the wine country has become a wildfires epicenter. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma, and Shasta counties.