Supreme Court Hears Opening Arguments Deciding Religious Liberty Case For Colorado Graphic Designer

SCOTUS to consider a case that has far-reaching implications for religious freedom.

  • SCOTUS will consider hearing 303 Creative v. Elenis, which revolves around Colorado designer Lorie Smith.
  • Smith, a Christian that designs websites, is challenging the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by asserting that it violates her First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.
  • Smith is fighting for her right to create messages that align with her religious beliefs and wishes to publish those beliefs on her website.
  • Smith’s case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which is only considering the free speech question, not the free exercise of religion issue.
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled for Colorado, using what the plaintiff’s brief argued was a “novel, artists-are-monopolists theory.”
  • Amy Howe of ScotusBlog, referencing the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, wrote, “The decision to take up Smith’s case, combined with the court’s recent rulings expanding religious liberties, suggests that Smith may be on the verge of securing the broader victory that Phillips sought four years ago.”
  • The 10th District’s Chief Judge, Timothy Tymkovich, responded in a blistering dissent, writing, “The majority concludes not only that Colorado has a compelling interest in forcing Ms. Smith to speak a government-approved message against her religious beliefs, but also that its public- accommodation law is the least restrictive means of accomplishing this goal. No case has ever gone so far. … It seems we have moved from ‘live and let live’ to ‘you can’t say that.’”
  • “The Constitution is a shield against CADA’s discriminatory treatment of Ms. Smith’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” Tymkovich wrote. “The Supreme Court’s repeated, emphatic disapprobation of compelled expressive speech leaves little room for other conclusions. So it is all the more troubling when, in a case where the parties have stipulated that Ms. Smith’s work is expressive speech — ‘[the] custom wedding websites will be expressive in nature’ — the majority decides that its compulsion is constitutional.”
  • “Ms. Smith would like to post on her website an honest, straightforward message about why she will only make wedding websites for weddings involving one man and one woman,” he pointed out. “Endorsing same-sex marriage is a message Ms. Smith will not create for any client. But CADA prevents her from informing clients of this.”
  • Christian baker, Jack Phillips, was ruled against back in 2018.
  • The court did not deal with the larger issues of anti-discrimination laws, free exercise of religion, and freedom of speech.
  • Smith’s case was then appealed to the Supreme Court.