303 Creative v. Elenis
Lorie Smith started her website and graphic design business, 303 Creative, to work on projects consistent with her religious beliefs. But when a Colorado law prevented her from expanding her services to include wedding websites—since she can’t in good conscience create websites for same-sex weddings—Smith filed a lawsuit against the State of Colorado. Now at the Supreme Court, Becket has filed a friend-of-the-court brief, saying that religious speech has always been “core speech” and is entitled to the First Amendment’s highest protection.
Share this Case
An Artist’s Mission
As both a Christian and graphic designer, Lorie Smith believes that God has called her to use her talents in a way that comports with her religious beliefs. Smith started her own graphic design business in 2012, to follow that mission.
Smith started to expand her business and wished to add wedding websites to her portfolio. Even though she was happy to work with anyone, she could not in good faith design websites that celebrated same-sex marriage.
For Smith, it was about the message, not any potential client’s personal characteristics. But because of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), she was prohibited from creating wedding videos. Smith filed a lawsuit in 2016, hoping to keep true to both her job and her religious beliefs.
A case designed for the Supreme Court
After unfavorable rulings at the district court and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Smith appealed her case to the United States Supreme Court. The Court agreed to hear her case on February 22, 2022.
On June 2, 2022, Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Smith’s case. While the counsel’s briefs to the Supreme Court point out that she should win her case under textbook Free Speech rules such as compelled speech, content discrimination, and viewpoint discrimination, Becket argued that the Court could also take a simpler route to deciding the case.
Looking back at Anglo-American legal tradition, religious speech has always been considered “core speech” and as such, deserves special protection. When the Founders were drafting the Constitution, their experiences, and the experiences of their forebears, with the suppression of religious speech were at top of mind. The Founders thus wrote the First Amendment to protect speech concerning religion and political matters. Indeed, the idea of freedom of speech originated as freedom of religious speech, and outspoken religious dissenters paved the way for freedom of speech for everyone.
To the Founders, the only reasons to limit religious speech were threats to peace or safety or encouragements of “licentiousness.” Since Smith’s religious speech doesn’t threaten to do any such things, her speech is protected under the First Amendment and must be allowed to continue. Colorado cannot penalize her for engaging in sincere religious speech. The First Amendment’s robust protections for religious speech demand no less.