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3 Supreme Court Cases to Watch in 2021-2022

Neal Hardin
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Important Supreme Court cases

Update: On February 22, the Supreme Court agreed to hear 303 Creative v. Elenis.

As we have come to expect in recent years, the Supreme Court’s docket for the upcoming term is filled with cases that carry great significance for the American people. Here are the highlights of three cases that will have vast implications for the protection of life, free speech, and the right of every American to live in accordance with their conscience.

1. 303 Creative v. Elenis

Lorie Smith is a web designer and graphic artist whose work could be threatened by a Colorado law that forces her and her studio, 303 Creative, to design and publish websites celebrating same-sex weddings if she does the same for weddings between one man and one woman. The law even bars Smith from explaining on her own company’s website what messages she can create consistent with her religious beliefs. This is the same law that has and is still being used against cake artist Jack Phillips. Colorado has been clear that if Lorie is not equally willing to create websites celebrating same-sex weddings, then she will be in violation of the law and subject to investigations, fines, and other punishments.

Colorado agrees that Lorie works with all people; she just doesn’t promote all messages. Yet, astonishingly, the 10th Circuit Court ruled 2-1 against Lorie, concluding that the government has the right to compel artists to create artwork and communicate messages that align with the government’s opinion.

Yet it is a core First Amendment principle that the government cannot compel someone to speak. The government shouldn’t be allowed to weaponize a law to force artists like Lorie to create and communicate messages that violate their beliefs. Free speech is for everyone, not just those who agree with the government.

A Supreme Court ruling on this case could hold vast implications for other ADF clients like Jack Phillips and the free speech rights of all Americans.

2. Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization

The United States is an extreme outlier in abortion law and policy. We are one of only four nations, including China and North Korea, that authorizes abortion-on-demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy and only one of seven nations that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks gestation. But in 2018, Mississippi passed the Gestational Age Act, protecting pre-born life beginning at 15 weeks. Mississippi’s law is consistent with international consensus on human rights for the unborn: more than 75% of countries worldwide have laws that protect nascent life beginning at 12 weeks or earlier. This makes sense, because at 15 weeks, a baby can move around, yawn, hear her mother’s voice, and quite possibly feel pain. Yet Mississippi’s law was challenged by Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in the state.

This law highlights a conflict between the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade that states cannot protect pre-born life before viability (about 22 weeks gestation), and the Court’s repeated affirmation in subsequent cases that states have an important interest in limiting abortion and protecting “vulnerable and innocent life” from the moment of conception.

Every human life is valuable and deserves to be protected. And the majority of Americans support commonsense laws like Mississippi’s, which protects unborn children and their mothers.

3. Seattle's Union Gospel Mission (SUGM) v. Woods

Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission is a Christian ministry that serves the city’s homeless by providing food, shelter, addiction-recovery, job placement, and legal services. The Mission’s religious convictions are the foundation for everything it does—every staff member and high-impact volunteer must believe in and share the hope of new life through Jesus Christ.

However, in 2016, one job applicant sought to join the Mission’s legal staff with the express purpose of trying to change the Mission’s religious beliefs. Since the Mission’s primary purpose is preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it instead hired someone who holds its religious beliefs and practices. The applicant then sued, and the Washington Supreme Court ultimately presented the Mission with an impossible choice: Either hire those who you disagree with and seek to change your biblical beliefs or change how you serve your homeless neighbors. Neither option is acceptable. Instead, the Mission has now asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its case.

Under the First Amendment, the government doesn’t get to interfere when a church or religious organization chooses to hire only those who share the organization’s faith. The government should stay out of churches and religious ministries’ internal faith matters. When faith-based institutions are free to care for the poor and needy without government interference, everyone benefits.

Read more about other major cases that the Supreme Court could hear this term:

  • Gordon College v. DeWeese-Boyd: Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision that allows government to interfere with who can teach the college’s faith.
  • Carson v. Makin: Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and Jones Day, who together represent the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state of Maine from discriminating against families who wish to use funds from a state tuition program—designed for students who don’t have access to a local public school—at private religious schools.
Neal Hardin
Neal Hardin
Neal Hardin serves as Digital Writer for Alliance Defending Freedom