(FamilyConservationPAC.com) – Using her rights under the First Amendment, the Supreme Court said last week that the State of Colorado could not compel a website designer to produce messages encouraging same-sex weddings violating her religious convictions.
By a vote of 6-3, the Court sided with the website designer in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis et al., while all three Democratic appointees opposed her claim.
Free speech supporters, like civil libertarian and law professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, applauded the decision:
…It is a victory for free speech. Three dissenting justices. https://t.co/jJc00UNq0A
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) June 30, 2023
— The Hill (@thehill) July 1, 2023
Justice Neil Gorsuch, an appellate judge who rendered the Hobby Lobby judgment and a frequent writer for the Court in matters involving religious liberty, wrote the majority opinion. Sonia Sotomayor, a justice, wrote the dissent.
The case continues the conversation the Supreme Court began about the First Amendment and same-sex marriage in the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision of 2018, in which the Court agreed with a Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.
The Court left open the question of whether the state could compel the baker’s involvement in that judgment, which was made primarily on procedural grounds.
The problem with 303 Creative is a little different because it involves actual verbal expression and because the website designer was pleased to work with same-sex couples.
Still, she did not want to convey ideas against her Christian religion.
Justice Gorsuch studied the development of the Court’s free speech and association precedents. Afterward, he stated (citations omitted):
“[T]he First Amendment protects an individual’s right to speak his mind regardless of whether the government considers his speech sensible and well-intentioned or deeply “misguided,”… and likely to cause “anguish” or “incalculable grief.”… Equally, the First Amendment protects acts of expressive association.
Generally, too, the government may not compel a person to speak its own preferred messages. …Nor does it matter whether the government seeks to compel a person to speak its message when he would prefer to remain silent or to force an individual to include other ideas with his own speech that he would prefer not to include. … All that offends the First Amendment just the same.
Consider what a contrary approach would mean. Under Colorado’s logic, the government may compel anyone who speaks for pay on a given topic to accept all commissions on that same topic—no matter the underlying message—if the topic somehow implicates a customer’s statutorily protected
Taken seriously, that principle would allow the government to force all manner of artists, speechwriters, and others whose services involve speech to speak what they do not believe on pain of penalty.
The government could require “an unwilling Muslim movie director to make a film with a Zionist message,” or “an atheist muralist to accept a commission celebrating Evangelical zeal,” so long as they would make films or murals for other members of the public with different messages.
Equally, the government could force a male website designer married to another man to design websites for an organization that advocates against same-sex marriage.
Of course, abiding the Constitution’s commitment to the freedom of speech means all of us will encounter ideas we consider “unattractive,”… “misguided, or even hurtful.”…. But tolerance, not coercion, is our Nation’s answer.
The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands.”
Christian web designer Lorie Smith after SCOTUS ruled in her favor:
“I want create websites that are consistent with my views of marriage but the state of Colorado said you must set aside those views. I'm grateful for the Court."pic.twitter.com/haDpjSbNFf
— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) June 30, 2023
Gorsuch argued that while rules prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations were crucial, they did not infringe upon the fundamental rights the Bill of Rights secured.
According to Gorsuch, it is challenging to read Sotomayor’s dissent and decide that the facts of the case remain the same because it appears to change the facts.
Sotomayor contends that the Court now has “a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.” However, the website designer specifically stated that she would serve same-sex couples.
303 Creative LLC v. Elenis et al., US Supreme Court, No. 21-476, is the case.
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