Supreme Court considers freedom of faith

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Lorie Smith creates custom graphic designs and websites that celebrate people of all races, religions, genders and sexual orientations.

“I love everyone,” says the 38-year-old who ditched the corporate world to start her own artistic firm.

“My faith has taught me to love everyone. I have worked with those who identify as LGBT.”

Yet the Denver, Colo.-based artist is being persecuted, her Constitutionally-protected right to free speech trampled upon by an Orwellian government that’s threatening her with hefty fines that could drive her company out of business.

All because Smith, a devout Christian, refuses to make websites for same-sex marriages.

And this kind of authoritarian bullying should frighten all Americans. Even those in the LGBTQ community.

On Monday, in a case that could decide, once and for all, the ongoing struggle between a US citizen’s right to express him or herself as conscience dictates and woke government’s stranglehold on speech, Ms. Smith went to Washington.

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in her case. Kristen Waggoner, a lawyer for the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom group, fought on behalf of Smith’s right to limit her company, 303 Creative, to performing its magic to promote holy matrimony between one man and one woman.

And although I support same-sex marriage, I welcome the end to the systemic bigotry directed against people of faith. Because when Big Brother demands that people must not live in accordance with their religions, every one of us runs the risk of being punished for thought crimes.

Emilee Carpenter, owner of Emilee Carpenter Photography
Emilee Carpenter faces up to $100,000 in fines for declining to take pictures of same-sex weddings based on her faith.
Alliance Defending Freedom

For about two hours Monday, the high court justices grilled Waggoner about the dispute, laser-beam focused on one issue – If Smith were allowed to refuse creating designs promoting same-sex unions, could she also deny service to, say, African-Americans or interracial couples?

The lawyer made it clear that the artist was not opposed to serving any person. She just won’t promote messages that contradict her Christianity.

After court, Smith declared that she stands for everyone’s right to free expression without government oppression. That includes a pro-choice advocate, she said, who must not be required to mouth support for the anti-abortion cause.

“The Supreme Court [must] protect everyone’s right to create freely,” she said.

Baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, manages his shop after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that he could refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs did not violate Colorado's anti-discrimination law Monday, June 4, 2018, in Lakewood, Colo.
The Supreme Court ruled Jack Phillips, a baker in Colorado, didn’t violate the states anti-discrimination law for refusing to make a gay couple’s wedding cake over his religious beliefs.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The justices are to announce their decision on a future date.

The Smith saga recalls the case of Jack Phillips, the Christian owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that Phillips did not violate the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to create a custom wedding cake for a couple of gay men six years earlier. That should have ended the baker’s fight for his faith.

It didn’t.

That’s because the high court’s decision focused narrowly on Phillips’ religious free expression, and not on free speech, Waggoner explained to me. This allowed the government to continue harassing Phillips, next going after him for refusing to create a birthday cake for transgender activist Autumn Scandina that’s blue on the outside and pink on the inside to symbolize her transition from male to female. The legal outrage continues to this day.

 Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022.
The Supreme Court has taken on cases revolving around vendors refusing same-sex marriage-related projects based on their beliefs.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File

And in September, the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York City heard oral arguments in the case of Emilee Carpenter, an upstate wedding photographer who faces up to $100,000 in fines, a revoked business license – even as much as a year in jail – for declining, based on her Christian faith, to take pictures of same-sex weddings. The jurists’ decision is pending.

Nothing prevents same-sex couples from hiring firms that would be more than glad to take their business. So I can’t understand this incessant governmental overreach.

This is nothing more than religious discrimination. And if that’s allowed to flourish, how long before the law comes after you?

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