Can Colorado Compel Speech From Christian Businesses? SCOTUS Set to Consider Question Yet Again

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The Supreme Court is set to hear a second high-profile case involving Christian business owners who do not want their speech to be compelled by Colorado anti-discrimination laws.

Last week, the high court granted writ of certiorari in the case 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis and is set to consider whether Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act compels owner Lorie Smith’s speech by forcing her to design websites for same-sex couples despite her desire to only take on business that corresponds with her biblical views on marriage.

Smith is the owner of 303 Creative, a web design firm that specializes in wedding websites.

She is being represented by the religious freedom law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, which notes that despite an appeals court agreeing that she had the right to deny service to same-sex couples on the grounds of her religious beliefs, that Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws trumped her First Amendment rights nonetheless.

The 10th Circuit struck down her case 2-1 last year.

“Like countless other artists, Lorie Smith serves all people. The 10th Circuit agreed,” ADF General Counsel Kristen Waggoner told reporters in a press call last week, as Town Hall reports.

“Lorie’s website designs are also speech protected under the First Amendment. The 10th Circuit agreed with that too. And Lorie chooses whether to create websites based on their content, not the people asking for those websites. The 10th Circuit agreed here as well,” she continued.

“But despite all that, the majority determined that Colorado’s law trumps artists’ First Amendment rights: that they can actually be compelled to create art that communicates ideas contrary to their convictions and then be compelled to publish those ideas on the web for all to see,” Waggoner explained.

“Colorado says Lorie can be made to do all these things while being forced to put her company’s name – and its seal of approval – on speech that promotes ideas that violate her conscience.”

Smith’s case is highly reminiscent of fellow Colorado Christian business owner, Jack Phillips, who has faced two lengthy court battles over his decision to politely decline to bake cakes for events he disagrees with.

In 2018, the Supreme Court determined that Colorado’s human rights tribunal had unfairly discriminated against him when it punished him for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Like Smith, Phillips gladly serves all customers regardless of sexual orientation, but does not wish to provide his culinary artistry to promote messages he disagrees with due to his devout faith. He won’t bake cakes for Halloween, either, and is currently locked in a second court battle after declining to bake a cake to celebrate a gender transition.

As noted by Chief Justice John Roberts at the time, the Supreme Court decision did not settle the pressing question as to whether or not business owners like Phillips and Smith have a right to decline to use their creative products to promote messages they disagree with; this is a question the justices have noted for years must eventually be settled once and for all.

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