303 Creative v. Elenis
What's at stake
- The freedom of creative professionals to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment.
Lorie Smith spent over a decade in the marketing and design industry. She has done a variety of different jobs—from marketing and advertising to graphic design and branding. She had worked for businesses and organizations both large and small. But something was missing.
That thing was freedom. Lorie wanted more freedom to use her talents to create projects she was passionate about. So, she went out on her own and founded 303 Creative.
But then, Lorie learned of Colorado’s “Anti-Discrimination Act” that would force her to create messages with which she disagreed. Ironically, the creative freedom Lorie thought she would gain by starting her own business was the freedom this law would take away.
Lorie is an artist who pours her heart, imagination, and talents into the websites and graphics she creates. She also spends one-on-one time with each of her clients, getting to know them so that she can create the absolute best design for them—something a large design firm could not offer in the same personalized way.
Lorie is also a Christian who believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. While she will create web designs for anyone, she doesn’t create all messages. She can’t use her design skills and creativity to express messages that violate her deeply held religious convictions.
Colorado’s law would force Lorie to create messages expressing support of same-sex weddings if she creates messages celebrating marriage between one man and one woman. But on top of that, the state reads the law as a gag order that prevents Lorie from expressing on her website her views on marriage at all.
This is censorship. And it’s a violation of Lorie’s First Amendment rights.
So, with the help of ADF attorneys, Lorie decided to challenge the law in court before it was enforced against her. And she had good reason to think that it might be.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission continues to aggressively enforce this law to punish creative professionals like Lorie.
After all, this is the same commission that the Supreme Court condemned for acting with “hostility” towards Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. And recently, the Commission went after Jack a second time before backing off once it became publicly known that the commissioners made more comments indicating their hostility toward religious freedom.
The government should be a strong defender of free speech, not its biggest threat.
Our role in this case
In September of 2016, ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lorie challenging the law in federal court. Nearly three years later, a judge issued a final ruling allowing Colorado officials to force Lorie to design and publish websites promoting messages that conflict with her religious beliefs.
On October 25, 2019, Lorie appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, asking it to reverse the lower court’s decision.