The United States bishops are stepping in to help a Colorado web designer who is afraid of being prosecuted under state anti-discrimination law for expressing her faith-based concerns to selling services that promote same-sex marriage.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) joined five other faith groups in filing an amici curiae brief in favor of web designer Lorie Smith in her Supreme Court case 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis.
“Free speech plays a critical role in protecting religious exercise because ‘freedom of conscience and worship’ have ‘close parallels in the speech provisions of the First Amendment,’” the June 2 amici brief reads.
The issue will be heard by the Supreme Court next term, with the justices debating “whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Smith, the proprietor of the graphic arts and internet design firm 303 Creative, in the lawsuit.
Her work is inspired by her deep faith, she claims.
The web designer in Colorado is concerned about being prosecuted under Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, which covers sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.
According to Smith’s counsel, the law would force her to live under the prospect of prosecution if she refused to build and publish websites that promote messages or causes that contradict her values, such as those that encourage same-sex marriage or same-sex weddings.
Smith has not attempted to expand her business to include developing wedding websites due to the prohibition.
Her predicament is not the result of government activity.
Rather, it is a pre-enforcement challenge aimed at preventing the application of the legislation, which Smith’s attorneys claim impacts creative professionals who have religious or moral reservations about creating content that violates their values.
Smith’s case is similar to 2018’s Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which a bakery rejected making a cake for a same-sex wedding because of its owner’s religious beliefs.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission argued that this was an instance of unjust discrimination, but the Supreme Court ruled the commission “showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating” the owner’s objection.
Many of Smith’s points in her brief, as well as amici briefs in her support, are based on the Masterpiece case.
The Colorado Catholic Conference, The General Council of the Assemblies of God, The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Samaritan’s Purse joined the USCCB in filing an amici brief on June 2.
The brief states, “Values of particular importance to the USCCB include the protection of the rights of religious organizations and religious believers under the First Amendment, and the proper development of this Court’s jurisprudence in that regard.”
The amici brief also states, “More broadly, our culture and our politics have become increasingly polarized, leading to regulations and policies that would force minority voices to choose between violating their conscience or being pushed from the public square.”
Smith does not discriminate against clients based on race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation, as indicated in her petitioner’s brief. She is more concerned with the message she is asked to create.
Her brief says, “Smith will decline any request—no matter who makes it—to create content that contradicts the truths of the Bible, demeans or disparages someone, promotes atheism or gambling, endorses the taking of unborn life, incites violence, or promotes a concept of marriage that is not solely the union of one man and one woman.”