The polygamist Warren S. Jeffs has been convicted for being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year old girl. His motives for doing this, he says, were religious.

"That just makes him all the more the prophet," said Isaac Wyler, who was kicked out of the church by Mr. Jeffs in 2004 but has remained in Colorado City.

Benjamin Bistline, a former member of Mr. Jeffs' church, said he thought the verdict would probably shift the balance of the church away from its historic base here in southern Utah to more recently established compounds in Texas, South Dakota and elsewhere.

"They believe that polygamy is god's word, and they will still do underage marriages," said Mr. Bistline, 72, who has written about the F.L.D.S.

What do we do when the beliefs and practices of a religion violate human or civil rights? How do we allow for the freedom of religion or avoid discriminating against certain religious beliefs when those beliefs are based on discrimination of some other kind?

The Jeffs case is an extreme example and perhaps not that difficult to judge because of existing laws. But the Bush administration has recently focused on the defense of the rights of religious people. These rights often conflict with the rights of others, and my prediction is that we will one day get a less-obvious test case about how the government will rank these rights.

--J. Goodrich