California Family Council, along with 15 other family policy councils, has signed onto an amicus brief, urging the US Supreme Court to preserve rights of conscience and religious liberty from government overreach.
State censorship is increasingly infringing upon the First Amendment rights of businesses and private citizens. The state continues to not only ban speech it disapproves of, but compel speech at the expense of conscience rights. Artists and business owners especially are experiencing this first hand.
This is exactly what has happened to graphic artist Lorie Smith, when the Colorado state government told her that she would have to create wedding websites to celebrate same sex marriages or close down. But the “creation of wedding websites” is “pure speech.” Smith does not want to use her artistic talents to create websites that celebrate ideas that are contrary to her deeply held beliefs, as is her right. The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments regarding this right in 303 Creative v. Elenis this fall.
Smith believes that same-sex marriages are inconsistent with God’s design for marriage, and thus it would be wrong for her to serve those weddings. She is not refusing to serve gay customers – in fact, Lorie routinely works with clients from all walks of life. She is only refusing to use her skills to design specific content which promotes gay marriage.
The question at hand in this case is “when and whether a state’s nondiscrimination law can overpower Ms. Smith’s rights of conscience and force her to say things she does not believe.”
The brief argues that the 1942 Supreme Court case Barnette v. West Virginia set a sweeping precedent when the Court decided that students can opt out of a flag salute in public schools. The court determined that the government cannot force speech “in support of even the most virtuous and well-meaning of causes.”
In the majority opinion, Justice Jackson wrote, “But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.” This precedent still stands and should be applied to 303 Creative v. Elenis.
Further, the brief argues that speech regarding a wedding ceremony is deeply significant and must therefore be left to the discretion of the speaker.
“Sacramental in Catholicism, sacred in Protestantism, holy in religions the world over, and precious beyond words for the nation’s secular citizens, the marriage ceremony isn’t just the dry and formalistic signing of a civil contract but rather a signal moment in a human life…It is for this reason, among others, that the state cannot, must not, compel any individual to speak in or in support of a wedding ceremony. To do so is an imposition on the human conscience every bit as grotesque and intrusive as a requirement that an individual blaspheme their own faith or pledge loyalty to a nation above their god.”
To disregard Smith’s rights of conscience and force her to speak against her will would destroy American free speech doctrine. It would violate human dignity and compromise the rights of artists, citizens, and corporations to choose the messages they want to send.
Lorie Smith challenged Colorado’s law that requires her to violate her deeply held beliefs, but a lower court sided with the state. So Lorie Smith, representing the freedoms of all Americans, took the case to the US Supreme Court.
This is why CFC is urging the US Supreme Court to rule in Smith’s favor.