Yet, Colorado officials say they have the right to tell us, as artists, what to communicate. And if we don’t agree with the state’s views on the big issues of our time? Coercion.
But there’s no way to make that gel with freedom of speech in America.
As much of America knows by now, Jack Phillips owns Masterpiece Cakeshop. He’s a cake artist in the Denver area who wants to create custom cakes consistent with his beliefs. That includes custom cakes celebrating a biblical understanding of marriage.
Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop
In 2018, the Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, ruled in Jack's favor. The nation's highest court said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the free exercise clause of the First Amendment by exhibiting hostility toward his religious beliefs through its comments and statements in ordering Jack to make a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
Lorie Smith owns 303 Creative, also in the Denver area. She’s a graphic artist who loves to design – and wants to create – wedding websites.
Like Jack, Lorie is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom and sincerely believes in God’s design for marriage expressed in the Bible. But because a Colorado law requires her – as it did Jack – to create art inconsistent with the core of who she is, she will go to the U.S. Supreme Court this term.
It saddens us that, in a country we love so dearly, our state is denying us our basic constitutional rights.
And it’s painful when people call us hateful names and seem to forget we both serve those who identify as LGBTQ and have done so throughout our careers. Even state officials who oppose us concede this.
Like most artists, we simply can’t design every message requested. We never dreamed something so commonsense would bring such persecution.
Jack has been targeted virtually nonstop for more than a decade, with oral arguments in the latest Masterpiece Cakeshop case taking place at the Colorado Court of Appeals on Wednesday. It’s one thing to be sued repeatedly; it’s another to watch your family suffer harassment and face death threats, be forced to lay off longtime employees and lose a substantial part of your business.
303 Creative designer receives death threats
Lorie has faced the uncertainty of litigation for six years – waking up every day knowing that her own state is preventing her from doing the kind of artistic work she most wants to do. She, too, has received death threats, as have her child and family.
That’s a lot to endure, simply because some disagree with our faith’s teachings about marriage. But we stand firm on the hope that one day those who misunderstand and mistreat us will see we’re standing for them, too.
Our cases aren’t about what any of us believe regarding marriage. They’re about freedom for all of us from government oppression. And respecting the right of each of us to our own opinion, even if we don’t always agree.
That’s how both of us live our lives and run our businesses. We treat even people who disagree with us with respect, and we don’t want to see anyone of a differing opinion stripped of their freedom, their livelihood, the safety of their families or the fulfillment of their dreams: Not the LGBTQ web designer, not the atheist cake artist, not the Muslim photographer, not the Democratic speechwriter. No one should be forced to speak messages that violate their core convictions.
This term, Lorie will go before the Supreme Court, which will answer the question: Does a state have the right to compel you to express ideas that violate your deepest personal beliefs?
We hope for all of us that the high court says “no” and rules in favor of free speech, ensuring Colorado and every state respect and make room for everyone’s beliefs. After all, that’s what the Constitution and equality under the law requires.
This is what we want for our children and grandchildren – and yours. A world where everyone, no matter who they are, is free to speak and advocate for the ideas they truly believe in.