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The Human Cost When the Government Fails to Protect Freedom

Lorie Smith of 303 Creative has been in litigation for six years. Now, the Supreme Court is hearing her case.
Alliance Defending Freedom
Lorie Smith's faith has stayed firm throughout her years in litigation

We expect certain jobs to bring on their share of confrontations, danger, or emotional toll.

But artists? No one—least of all artists themselves—sees that profession as a lightning rod for threats and intimidation. It’s become that, though, for a growing number of creative people all over the country, who find their government increasingly oppressive when it doesn’t like their personal beliefs.

Lorie Smith, for instance, is a graphic artist and owner of 303 Creative near Denver. One of her passions is designing custom wedding websites that celebrate marriage as an institution ordained by God and celebrating the love between husband and wife.

For Lorie, that calling poses several problems. Geographically, she’s located in a state notorious for its aggressive hostility to those who hold to what the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges called a “decent and honorable” belief in opposite-sex marriage. Colorado is failing to uphold Obergefell’s promise to respect those who hold those beliefs. And legally, Lorie is not at liberty to create custom art that celebrates marriage consistent with her beliefs.

Her decision six years ago to stand up for the freedom to create freely and push back against this unjust government coercion will bring her, on Dec. 5, to the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition to the pain of being prevented from speaking what she believes by her own government, standing up for free speech has also unleashed a hornets’ nest of death threats and discrimination from those unable to appreciate the value of free speech for everyone, even for those with whom we might disagree.


A torrent of threats

Lorie would be the first to say how painful it was to have a neighbor she thought she could trust put her home address on the internet the day she filed. With the torrent of death threats and hateful phone calls and emails that came in that day, she slept on the floor below the window with her daughter that first night in fear for their lives with every car that came by.

In the months and years since she filed, the hate mail and threats have only continued. She’s had to get a security system for her house, put her child’s school on alert, and watch her back at every turn. Almost weekly, someone attempts to hack into her 303 Creative website, and her reputation and character have been maligned across social media.

Lorie also never expected having to walk next door to her 90-year-old grandfather’s house to try to explain to him why he couldn’t answer the door or the telephone.

Why? Because she happens to have a belief about marriage that some don’t agree with. And because Colorado has decided to silence her and to make a point that those with beliefs the government currently disfavor will be purged from society. But all of us, regardless of our beliefs, should be free to say what we believe without fear of government punishment.


Still standing for freedom

For six years, Lorie has lived with all of that. Every new article or TV appearance brings a new wave of phone calls, emails—all the old threats and lies and disparagements dug out and hurled back at her again.

All Lorie wants is what all of us desire: the freedom to live out her beliefs. To design custom websites and promote the messages she wants to speak. To not to be forced to say things she doesn’t believe.

She doesn’t want all that for herself alone. She wants it for all Americans—and not just in the theoretical sense. Nothing would please her more, she says, than sitting down with those who take such deep issue with her beliefs, sharing coffee, listening to what they have to say, and gently sharing her own point of view.

She honors their right to speak freely consistent with their ideas and beliefs, even if she doesn’t share them. That’s what her case is all about.

She’d just like the freedom to do that, too.

Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom

Faith-based 501(c)(3) that legally defends the First Amendment rights of free speech & religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and the family, including parental rights.