Supreme Court Rules for Christian Web Designer in Forced Speech Case

The Supreme Court ruled 6–3 in favor of a Christian website designer who said Colorado’s law requiring her to create websites to celebrate same-sex weddings infringed on her constitutional rights.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion (pdf) in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis (court file 21-476) which was decided June 30. The opinion was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

The three liberal justices dissented. President Joe Biden called the new decision “disappointing.”

Left-wing activists have been targeting bakers for years for political purposes, asking Christian confectioners opposed to same-sex marriage to bake wedding cakes for gay marriage celebrations.

When the bakers refuse to make the cakes, these activists sue under anti-discrimination laws, hoping to secure favorable legal precedents.

In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018), the Supreme Court sided with Jack Phillips, a Christian baker whom a gay couple had asked to create a custom cake to celebrate their union, finding a state human rights commission had violated his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.

But in the case at hand, artist and website designer Lorie Smith of 303 Creative complained she was being singled out by the same Colorado human rights commission because, based on her religious faith, she does not support nontraditional marriage.

Smith has said she will design custom websites for anyone, including those who identify as LGBT, so long as their message does not conflict with her religious views.

NTD Photo
Lorie Smith, a Christian graphic artist and website designer in Colorado, prepares to speak to supporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Dec. 5, 2022. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

This means that she won’t promote messages that condone violence or encourage sexual immorality, abortion, or same-sex marriage.

When clients want such messages expressed, Smith refers them to other website designers.

Smith took action when she discovered she was forbidden under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) to post a statement online explaining what content she was, and was not, willing to create.

Smith’s attorney, Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, told the justices during oral arguments on Dec. 5, 2022, that Smith “blends art with technology to create custom messages using words and graphics.”

“She serves all people, deciding what to create based on the message, not who requests it. But Colorado declares her speech a public accommodation and insists that she create and speak messages that violate her conscience,” she said.

“If the government may not force motorists to display a motto, school children to say a pledge, or parades to include banners, Colorado may not force Ms. Smith to create and speak messages on pain of investigation, fine, and re-education.”

In the 26-page majority opinion, Gorsuch wrote:

“Like many states, Colorado has a law forbidding businesses from engaging in discrimination when they sell goods and services to the public. Laws along these lines have done much to secure the civil rights of all Americans.

“But in this particular case, Colorado does not just seek to ensure the sale of goods or services on equal terms. It seeks to use its law to compel an individual to create speech she does not believe. The question we face is whether that course violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”

“In this case, Colorado seeks to force an individual to speak in ways that align with its views but defy her conscience about a matter of major significance,” Gorsuch wrote.

“The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands.”

Gorsuch added: “Nor, in any event, do the First Amendment’s protections belong only to speakers whose motives the government finds worthy; its protections belong to all, including to speakers whose motives others may find misinformed or offensive.”

The Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a 38-page dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Five years ago, this court recognized in Masterpiece Cakeshop a “‘general rule’ that religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage ‘do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law,’” Sotomayor wrote.

The court also recognized the “‘serious stigma’ that would result if ‘purveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons’ were ‘allowed to put up signs saying ‘no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages.’”

“Today, the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.

“Specifically, the Court holds that the First Amendment exempts a website-design company from a state law that prohibits the company from denying wedding websites to same-sex couples if the company chooses to sell those websites to the public.

“The Court also holds that the company has a right to post a notice that says, ‘no [wedding websites] will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages.’”

Heritage Foundation senior legal fellows Sarah Parshall Perry and Tom Jipping hailed the new majority opinion.

They said in a statement: “The Supreme Court got it right today in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, once again affirming that the First Amendment means what it says in protecting our freedom of speech.”

“The government cannot force Americans to abandon their constitutional rights in order to operate a business, but the Colorado Civil Rights Commission seems determined to suppress First Amendment rights in order to advance an ideological agenda.

“The Supreme Court has already rejected the commission’s hostility to religion and today does the same regarding freedom of speech.”

President Joe Biden criticized the ruling, saying it was “disappointing.”

“While the Court’s decision only addresses expressive original designs, I’m deeply concerned that the decision could invite more discrimination against LGBT Americans,” the president said in a statement.

“More broadly, today’s decision weakens long-standing laws that protect all Americans against discrimination in public accommodations—including people of color, people with disabilities, people of faith, and women.”

From The Epoch Times

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