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Supreme Court of the United States

When Will It Stop? Colorado Censors This Web Designer for Working According to Her Religious Convictions

By Maureen Collins posted on:
July 27, 2021

You may not have heard of Lorie Smith. But she has a lot in common with cake artist, Jack Phillips.

Jack was also targeted by the same Colorado state entity that is now violating Lorie’s rights. Colorado officials tried to punish Jack after he declined to create a custom cake celebrating an event that went against his religious convictions.”

But even after the U.S. Supreme Court condemned Colorado officials for acting with “clear and impermissible hostility” towards Jack’s religious beliefs, they are now using the same law they used to go after Jack to threaten Lorie’s work as a web designer.

Through her business, 303 Creative, Lorie creates unique and beautiful websites for her clients. Like Jack, Lorie serves everyone. She just cannot express all messages because of her deeply held religious convictions. But because of the law, Lorie could be punished simply for offering to create websites only celebrating weddings consistent with her beliefs.

Lorie knows that this is a violation of her First Amendment rights. So, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys, she challenged the law in court. Unfortunately, so far, the courts have declined to protect Lorie’s rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit just ruled that the state can continue to punish Lorie simply for peacefully living and working according to her religious convictions.

Read more about Lorie’s case below.

Who: Lorie Smith

Lorie Smith spent over a decade in the marketing and design industry in a variety of different roles—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 convey messages 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.

What: 303 Creative v. Elenis

Colorado’s law would force Lorie to create messages celebrating same-sex weddings if she creates messages celebrating marriage between one man and one woman. But on top of that, the law acts as a gag order that prevents Lorie from expressing on her website her reasons why she only creates websites celebrating certain ideas.

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 would 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 U.S. Supreme Court condemned for acting with “hostility” towards Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. And it’s the same commission that went after Jack a second time before backing off once it became publicly known that the commissioners made more comments indicating their continuing hostility toward religious freedom.

The government should be a strong defender of free speech, not its biggest threat.

When: 2016—present

In September 2016, ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit on Lorie’s behalf 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 Tenth Circuit, asking it to reverse the lower court’s decision. And in November 2020, the Tenth Circuit heard her case.

Unfortunately, the 10th Circuit ruled that Colorado can force Lorie to express messages and celebrate events that violate her faith. But no one should be banished from the marketplace simply for living and working consistently with their religious beliefs. Not a cake artist. Not a floral artist. Not a web designer. That’s why ADF will appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court on Lorie’s behalf.

Where: Denver, Colorado

Lorie is a Colorado native. She named her business “303 Creative” because “303” is the Denver metro area code.

Why: To protect artists’ right to create freely

The internet should be a place where the freedom of speech thrives. Internet companies regularly exercise the freedom to control the content on their websites. Lorie deserves the same freedom.

Just because her religious beliefs are different from the government doesn’t mean she should be targeted for creating art consistent with her convictions. After all, the freedom of speech is for everyone—not only those who agree with the government.

The Bottom Line

The government shouldn’t threaten a web designer with fines to force her to create art that violates her beliefs.

Maureen Collins

Maureen Collins

Digital Cultivation Manager

Maureen Collins serves as the Digital Cultivation Manager at Alliance Defending Freedom.

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