Supreme Court Case of Christian Web Designer Challenges Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment

The Maine Writer

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The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments involving free speech and religious beliefs and is scheduled for Monday, December 5, 2022. This case does not involve designing wedding cakes but instead designing wedding websites. The lawyers, in this case, Alliance Defending Freedom, are the same lawyers that defended Colorado baker Jack Phillips. Phillips took his case to the Supreme Court over his refusal to make a cake for a gay wedding because of his religious beliefs and he won his case.

Alliance Defending Freedom is back in court with this case, defending 303 Creative LLC. The owner of 303 Creative is Colorado web designer Lorie Smith. Smith started her business in 2012 and currently offers graphic design services along with website design services. She would like to expand her business to include wedding website design services. Smith says her religious beliefs would cause her to decline any same-sex couples that came to her looking for her to design a wedding website for the couples. She wanted to post a statement on her business website about her religious objections to same-sex marriages, but her statement would conflict with the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for any business open to the public. Smith felt the Colorado law was violating her free speech and religious rights, and she filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado in 2016 against members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, and Aubrey Elenis, the director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled against Lorie Smith in July 2021, which led Smith to appeal to the Supreme Court in September 2021. The Supreme Court agreed in February 2022 that they would hear the case, with oral arguments starting on December 5, 2022.

This case has both liberal and conservative groups warning of dire consequences depending on how the court rules. Liberal groups say if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Lorie Smith, it will lead to discrimination against same-sex couples, immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, and those who are Jewish. The ACLU filed a brief with the Supreme Court saying Smith's argument was permission to discriminate whenever a business’s product or service could be characterized as "expressive," a category of businesses that could range from “luggage to linens to landscaping.” Those businesses, the ACLU says, could announce, “We Do Not Serve Blacks, Gays, or Muslims.” While conservative groups are arguing that a ruling against Smith will then force those who are artists to do work that is against their faith. The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty filed a brief saying, " Since the Founding, religious speech has consistently been treated as core speech under the Free Speech Clause that enjoys the highest level of constitutional protection."

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