The U.S. Supreme Court’s grant of a writ of certiorari in 303 Creative v. Elenis sets up a precise distinction between the free exercise of religion and free expression under the First Amendment and invidious discrimination. We look forward to the upcoming oral arguments.
Lorie Smith is a web designer who launched 303 Creative LLC in 2012. She wanted to expand her business into the weddings industry, but was blocked by the State of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). As an observant Christian, Smith believes that the nature of marriage is between one man and one woman and felt morally unable to design websites that would celebrate a same-sex wedding. Smith filed a lawsuit in 2016 but lost in both the District Court and before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Protect The 1st supports Lorie Smith’s suit to protect her First Amendment rights to free speech and free expression. The right to practice one’s sincerely held religious beliefs, and to be protected from unnecessary government intrusion, is fundamental to our constitutional order and our pluralistic society. Protect The 1st believes the Court is moving in the right direction in cases protecting the constitutional protections available for expressive content and religious exercise.
We also emphasize that this case presents an opportunity to devise a moderate, sensible approach to religious exemptions. Smith’s case is about the expression inherent to creating and publishing a website that celebrates views contradictory to the religious beliefs of the designer. The State of Colorado would be violating Smith’s right to free expression as an artist by banning Smith from the weddings industry or by compelling her to create these websites. But a chef could not – and should not – be allowed to exclude gay people from his restaurant under the same reasoning. It is our hope 303 Creative creates a strong but narrowly tailored exemption which protects the artistic expression Americans of all creeds. But, for this limited category of exemption to work under the rule of law, it must remain precisely that: limited.