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Freedom of speech and expression is integral to a self-governing society

Published in Blog on December 07, 2022 by Catie Robertson

A landmark freedom of speech case was discussed in the Supreme Court this week.

In 303 Creative v. Elenis, graphic artist Lorie Smith, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, is seeking relief from a Colorado law that would force her to promote messages through her art inconsistent with her religious beliefs.

As a custom website designer interested in using her art to glorify God, Smith had concerns about expanding her services to include wedding website design for fear of legal retaliation from the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act (CADA).

While the justices will not decide if this law violates Smith’s religious freedom, it does seek to settle whether “applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”

This case should be the concern of all Americans who wish to express their beliefs despite the government’s own.

Colorado attorney general Phillip Weiser opposes Smith, telling ABC News, “If you're open to the public, you need to accommodate everybody. That's a core of our civil rights law, and it has deep roots in American law.”

Weiser sees this contention as a refusal of services predicated on personal discrimination.

However, as Smith’s lawyer clarified in a press release following the hearing, “Whether she custom designs a website or graphic always turns on what the message is, not who is requesting it.”

This same Colorado anti-discrimination law in question landed Denver cake baker Jack Phillips in the Supreme Court in 2018.

Phillips held a similar line of reasoning to Smith. Though he invited people of all lifestyles to patronize his store, his conscience would not allow him to create cakes with messages he did not support.

While the Court ruled in Phillips’ favor in order to protect his religious liberty, CADA remains intact and he remains the target of lawsuits from the LGBTQ community.

However, the Court ruling in Smith’s case will set an important precedent for artists and employees everywhere who offer their creative talents to the public.

Freedom of speech and expression is integral to a self-governing society.

Without it, citizens are no more than puppets straining against invisible strings.

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