Wisconsin Family Action Responds to SCOTUS Decision Affirming First Amendment
First Amendment Protects All from Government Coercion
MADISON – Last Friday the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 6-3 decision holding that “The First Amendment prohibits Colorado from forcing a website designer to create expressive designs speaking messages with which the designer disagrees.”
Justice Gorsuch in the majority opinion writes that “The First Amendment’s protections belong to all, not just to speakers whose motives the government finds worthy. The Nation’s answer is tolerance, not coercion. 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.”
The ruling is a major victory for those who do not want government telling them what to say or what messages they must create. That goes for the liberal publisher who does not want to publish a book with conservative views, as well as for the religious website designer who does not want to promote weddings that violate her religious beliefs.
The ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis acknowledges the difference between disagreement and discrimination by distinguishing between serving all people and promoting all messages. Lorie Smith, owner of 303 Creative, happily designs websites for all customers but cannot create messages that run counter to her deeply held beliefs. Her decision is based on the message, not the person. The Court affirms that difference.
Colorado’s law attempted to force Smith to design wedding websites with a message she did not agree with. Alliance Defending Freedom successfully argued the case, and all Americans are now freer for it.
Regardless of what one believes about a certain political or social issue, this ruling protects the right of all Americans to disagree with government, while also upholding a prohibition on discrimination based on the traits of a particular person or group.
Wisconsin Family Action filed an amicus brief along with other state allies urging the Court’s decision in favor of Lorie Smith.
Wisconsin Family Action, Inc. is a statewide organization engaged in strengthening, preserving, and promoting marriage, family, life, and religious freedom in Wisconsin.
Christian cake shop owner Jack Phillips and graphic designer Lorie Smith are fighting for their First Amendment rights in court. Hopefully their cases will reaffirm the right of every American to live or run a business according to their deeply held beliefs without fear or retribution.
In 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court heard Phillips’ case after a couple sued the baker for refusing to bake them a cake celebrating their same-sex wedding. The court ruled in Phillips’ favor and found that the state of Colorado had discriminated against him.
However, before the court gave its ruling, another complaint was filed against Phillips, this time for refusing to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition.
On the same day that the Supreme Court announced it would hear Phillips’ original case, Colorado lawyer Autumn Scardina called Phillips’ bakery to ask for a cake celebrating his transition from male to female. Scardina admitted that he only wanted to “challenge the veracity” of Phillips’ claim that he would serve LGBT people. Phillips’ family told Scardina they could not make the cake because the message it conveyed contradicted their personal beliefs.
Phillips has frequently served LGBT customers. He is not discriminating against the customers themselves. He simply refuses to make cakes with messages that contradict his religious beliefs such as Halloween cakes, sexually explicit cakes, and demeaning cakes, as is his God-given right.
A district court ruled against Phillips in this case, but Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys appealed the decision to the Colorado Court of Appeals.
ADF Senior Counsel Jake Warner says, “No one should be forced to express a message that violates their beliefs and conscience. Activists and state laws have threatened artists like Jack and graphic artist Lorie Smith because they can’t express messages on marriage and gender that violate their core beliefs. In this case, an activist attorney demanded that Jack create expressive cakes to test him and ‘correct the errors’ of his thinking. The attorney even promised to sue Jack again if the case is dismissed for any reason. Free speech is for everyone. The Constitution protects the freedom of every American to express ideas even if the government disagrees with those ideas.”
Warner is absolutely right. Phillips is completely within his rights to refuse to serve a same-sex wedding or bake a cake with an anti-Christian message. Hopefully, the Colorado Court of Appeals makes a decision informed by the Constitution.
In Jack’s first case, the US Supreme Court granted Phillips a partial victory, but failed to address the heart of the issue: Does the Constitution protect freedom of speech and the freedom not to speak, as well as religious freedom, or does the LGBTQ agenda trump those rights?
The good news is that the high court has a case this session similar to Jack’s, giving them another opportunity to get this issue right. Lorie Smith, a Christian graphic designer, is challenging the same law that brought Phillips to the Supreme Court.
Smith designs websites for weddings as long as they align with her belief that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. However, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act forces her to create websites for same-sex marriages.
This is an opportunity for the Supreme Court to affirm every artist and business owner’s right to refuse to send a message they don’t agree with. Let’s pray the court gets it right this time.
Even WFA has been denied graphic design services more than once because of who we are and what we believe- even by vendors who say they are Christians. While we could sue, we never have, because as Christians, we really do believe business owners should have the right to refuse any business they wish.
At the core of human dignity is our right to live in accordance with our deeply held beliefs. No one has the right to an artist’s services. Only the artist has the right to determine which services he or she will provide. While this First Amendment right is under severe and constant attack, Phillips and Smith’s cases give us a chance to realign the law with the Constitution and prevent more unwarranted complaints against Christian business owners.