WASHINGTON (LifeSiteNews) — The U.S. Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will be hearing the case of a religious web designer suing Colorado for the right to decline to create websites for same-sex “weddings.”
Lorie Smith, creative owner of the marketing, web, and graphic design company 303 Creative LLC, preemptively challenged Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) in anticipation of legal challenges to her desired web design work celebrating “biblical marriage,” and her intent to publish a disclaimer that she “firmly believe[s]” that she is being called by God to do work that “celebrate[s] His design for marriage as a life-long union between one man and one woman.”
Last year, a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled 3-1 against Smith, finding that her refusal would “arguably” deny service “because of sexual orientation,” and therefore interfere with the “equal access to publicly available goods and services” under CADA. Remarkably, Judge Mary Beck Briscoe wrote that a “faith that enriches society in one way might also damage society in other, particularly when that faith would exclude others from unique goods or services.”
Representing Smith, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) asked the nation’s highest court to review the case. On Tuesday, the court agreed, announcing it will consider “[w]hether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”
“The government doesn’t have the power to silence or compel creative expression under the threat of punishment. It’s shocking that the 10th Circuit would permit Colorado to punish artists whose speech isn’t in line with state-approved ideology,” ADF General Counsel Kristen Waggoner says. “Colorado has weaponized its law to silence speech it disagrees with, to compel speech it approves of, and to punish anyone who dares to dissent. Colorado’s law — and others like it — are a clear and present danger to every American’s constitutionally protected freedoms and the very existence of a diverse and free nation.”
Such cases continue to imperil religious entrepreneurs in large part because the Supreme Court declined to rule conclusively on Colorado’s LGBT “nondiscrimination” regime in 2018, when it heard the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips. The Court sided with Phillips, but former Justice Anthony Kennedy’s narrow majority opinion turned largely on state officials’ hostility toward the baker’s faith rather than establishing clear precedent in favor of religious liberty, subjecting Phillips and others to years of additional lawsuits.
“The First Amendment’s promises of free speech and religious liberty are bedrock principles. Yet over the past decade, those promises have been shattered: Elane Photography and Sweet Cakes are out of business, Barronelle Stutzman was forced to retire, Emilee Carpenter is risking jail, Bob Updegrove and Chelsey Nelson are in harm’s way, and Jack Phillips is still in court, pursued by a private enforcer who wants to finish the job,” ADF argued to the Court in its latest appeal. “This Court must act now or officials with enforcement power over nearly half the country’s citizens will continue compelling artists to speak against their consciences while silencing them from explaining their beliefs.”