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A Big Win for Free Speech from the US Supreme Court

A decision on Friday from the highest court in the United States is a major win for the fundamental freedoms of Americans.

The justices ruled 6-3 in favor of Colorado web designer Lorie Smith, in the case 303 Creative v. Elenis. Smith owns the 303 Creative business which creates custom wedding websites. As a Christian, she wanted to only provide this service for weddings that honor God’s design for marriage, between one man and one woman. But the state of Colorado didn’t allow this, even though their state officials understood that Smith was willing to work with customers who identify as LGBT, as long as her work didn’t violate her faith. (Colorado is also the state that has repeatedly gone after baker Jack Phillips over his decision to not design cakes for gay “marriages” and gender “transitions”).

Smith challenged the Colorado law and lost at the U.S. Court of Appeals in July of 2021. She appealed to the Supreme Court, which has now sided with her.

“The decision means that government officials cannot misuse the law to compel speech or exclude from the marketplace people whose beliefs it dislikes” explained Kristen Waggoner, the president of Alliance Defending Freedom, which argued this case before the Supreme Court. “That’s a win for all Americans – whether one shares Lorie’s beliefs or holds different beliefs. Each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what messages we will communicate – in our words, in our art, in our voice – without interference from the government.”

The decision points to the immense importance of the Constitution, and judges willing to uphold it, in the face of legislatures who are keen to use the force of the law to push their views on the public. And it also marks a very different trajectory from Canada’s Supreme Court, especially with the recent loss of Justice Russell Brown.

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Culture Clashes, News

Lorie Smith: another Christian battling to preserve a freedom we all need to use more often

Lorie Smith is a Colorado website designer and graphic artist who wants to expand her business to include wedding clients. While she’s worked with homosexual clients in the past, that hadn’t involved weddings, and she knew that she wouldn’t want to design wedding websites for same-sex “marriages.” The Colorado government has declared that her stand amounts to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Smith’s pastor suggested that she contact the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the same legal team that represented Jack Philips, another Coloradan who got in trouble for refusing to design wedding cakes for same-sex “marriages.” While he eventually won his case in front of the Supreme Court, the ADF confirmed that the Colorado officials would still come after Smith. So Smith decided to challenge the law with the help of the ADF. Since she first began her challenge 6 years ago, she’s had to endure rape and death threats against her and her family and she’s lost both clients and friends. Through it all, she could take comfort knowing that what she was doing was for God and to His glory. And now, this fall, she will have a hearing before the Supreme Court. Hers is only one of many cases this year involving compelled speech. In the UK earlier this year, a small bakery finally won their case. Their journey started in 2014, when British LGBT activist Gareth Lee ordered a cake from the Belfast shop, requesting a picture of Sesame Street characters Ernie and Bert, and the slogan “Support Gay Marriage.” His order was taken and the cake paid for, but a few days later Ashers Bakery called him to explain they couldn’t make the cake because of the slogan, and that his money would be refunded. He took them to court for discrimination and won initially before losing in UK’s Supreme Court, which said it was the message and not the man, that was at issue, and Ashers Bakery had the right not to create messages they disagreed with. But Lee wasn’t finished, and took the case to the European Court of Human Rights. Fortunately, in January the bakers won again, though on a technicality that leaves the door open for Lee to file further appeals. So it’s good news, for now. Interestingly the bakery got support from an unexpected source. Another LGBT activist, Peter Tatchell, pointed out that: "If the judgement had gone the other way, a gay baker could have been forced by law to accede to requests to decorate cakes with messages opposing LGBT+ equality.” What Tatchell was echoing here (however unintentional) was Jesus’ warning against judging others by standards we wouldn’t want applied to ourselves (Matt. 7:1-2). That might even be the message a Christian should get cake-printed from the nearest gay bakery: “Do not judge… for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” As with Lorie Smith’s battle, this was been defended as a matter of free speech. It is that, most certainly. But what has largely been lost is how the decision affirmed Ashers Bakery’s right not to harm others. That is the more important battle, in part because it is the fight we’ll be fighting alone. Even an LGBT activist may, in his own self-interest, defend a Christian’s right to free speech. But what only Christians will defend is God’s Truth that gay “marriage” is harmful, and, thus, so too is its celebration. It’s one thing to fight for a right to free speech, and quite another to exercise that freedom to explain that the reason we don’t want to bake the cake or make the website is because we don’t want to hurt homosexuals by promoting a sinful lifestyle that separates them from their Savior. That’s a message no LGBT activist is ever going to speak. But is a message that desperately needs to be heard more often, and more clearly. It’s also a message that’ll require even more courage....