BLOGHow A Colorado Law is Threatening Freedom of Speech and Religion

By Sarah Kramer Posted on: | September 29, 2016

Following the call of God on her life, Lorie Smith, who owns 303 Creative, a website design and marketing business, desires to use her artistic talents as a website and graphics designer to publicly proclaim and celebrate God’s design for marriage.  She wants to do so by designing and creating custom websites promoting marriages between one man and one woman while declining to promote any other type of marriage, including same-sex marriage.   

But Colorado officials’ peculiar interpretation of a state law stands squarely in her path.  The law, which bars discrimination on the basis of several characteristics, including sexual orientation, should not pose any problems for Lorie because she decides what jobs to take based on their message, not any personal characteristic of a prospective client. 

But State officials have said, at least where speech unfavorable to same-sex marriage is concerned, that distinctions between message-based and person-based objections are irrelevant.  Both are sexual orientation discrimination. 

What does this mean for Lorie? If she follows her religious convictions and starts creating websites celebrating marriages between one man and one woman, she is required by law to also create websites celebrating same-sex marriages, which would violate her religious beliefs. The law does not stop there.  It also makes it illegal for her to publicly explain her religious reasons for promoting only God’s design for marriage and for declining to promote any other type of marriage. That’s right – she cannot even express her religious beliefs on her own website.

There are significant consequences for violating the law. A single violation would subject Lorie to a costly and burdensome investigation, fines of up to $500, and oppressive mandates, like re-education training designed to compel her to agree with Colorado’s views on marriage and abandon her own. 

Colorado’s law leaves Lorie with few options: 1) Censor her own speech and choose not to go into the wedding industry, 2) be forced to violate her faith, or 3) face investigations, fines, and government-mandated re-education training for running her business consistently with her beliefs.

But, Lorie has one more option.

Lorie asked Alliance Defending Freedom to represent her in court to challenge the law. On Lorie’s behalf, we are asking the Colorado federal district court to prohibit State officials from applying the law in a manner that prevents Lorie from operating her business according to her artistic and religious beliefs.

No one should be forced to violate their faith or give up their right to free speech simply because the government does not like what they have to say.

And it’s not only Lorie who is feeling the effect of this Colorado law.

Jack Phillips, a cake artist in the Denver area, was sued because he politely declined to use his God-given artistic talents to create a cake celebrating a same-sex marriage.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled against Jack saying he must provide his employees “re-education” training and leave his faith out of his business. The Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear the case, so Jack appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court

Jack and Lorie’s cases should concern us all.

If Lorie and Jack are not permitted to live, work, and create according to their beliefs, who’s to say that you will be able to live, work, and create according to your beliefs – regardless of what beliefs you hold? And if the government can decide which beliefs are permissible and which are punishable by law, everyone loses.


Help Protect Your Right to Live Consistently with Your Faith

The movement to force people of faith to violate their conscience must be stopped. Visit CreateFreely.org to learn more about what ADF is doing to defend your right to create freely and to download a FREE resource for creative professionals who wish to live, work, and create consistently with their faith.

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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