Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Kate Anderson appeared on the Catholic Creatives podcast earlier this month to talk about the importance of protecting First Amendment freedoms for creative professionals—especially those who want to live according to their religious convictions.
Catholic Creatives is a nationwide group of Catholic creative professionals who want to bring meaning and faith into their projects. Kate spoke with host and co-founder of Catholic Creatives, Marcellino D’Ambrosio. Here are three major takeaways from their conversation.
1. When creating custom art, creative professionals are expressing a message.
Kate has worked on several cases of creative professionals who were subject to laws that might compel them to create messages against their beliefs, including 303 Creative v. Elenis and Amy Lynn Photography Studio v. City of Madison.
Kate knows from her experience with these cases, and also as the daughter of a writer, how important the freedoms of speech and religion are to those in creative jobs. “I know from talking to my mom and from talking to clients, how personal creative expression is,” she said. “It’s coming from your very heart and everything that you are.”
Laws that force artists to create messages against their consciences stifle that creative expression and attempt to make it an impersonal transaction. That’s why the work of the ADF Center for Conscience initiatives, which gives free legal aid to creatives affected by anti-free-speech laws, is so important.
“We just want to help creative professionals be able to live and work according to their beliefs and be able to be free to do that, whatever that means for them,” Kate told the host. “I just think that it is such an important thing.”
2. Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a pluralistic society like ours.
Many of the laws enforced against creative professionals surround controversial subjects such as abortion and same-sex marriage. According to Kate, this is nothing new. Throughout U.S. history, free-speech debates surround contentious topics. “I think when we’re in that situation, what happens is because the issue is so polarizing, it is easy to forget the real issues at stake,” she said.
Kate emphasized that we must be vigilant about our freedom of speech—the same laws that protect speech we disagree with also protect our own speech. But we also must truly listen to other perspectives we disagree with because that is how culture thrives.
That is why allowing creative professionals to express themselves freely is so important—it allows us to see the world from different perspectives. “It is such a good thing to be able to be changed and to see things differently because somebody comes at it from a completely different perspective and to be able to grow as a culture that way. So that is a part of what I want to protect.”
3. Art is more than a commodity.
A major issue with laws that compel speech is that they treat artistic expression as a commodity.
Many of the cases of creative professionals deal with what are known as “public accommodation” laws, which are intended to protect specific categories of people from discrimination. However, many of these laws try to accomplish this by prohibiting businesses from referring out projects.
“As you know, as a creative professional, referring a project that you can’t do because of your beliefs or your conscience, isn’t treating any one differently because of who they are,” said Kate. “It has nothing to do with who it is asking you to do that project. And that’s the case for all the clients that I run into.”
The creative professionals that ADF represents serve all people, but they cannot express every message.
After all, creative professionals are not just providing a product, they are putting their heart and soul into expressing an artistic message. As D’Ambrosio observed: “I think a lot of it comes down to thinking that art is just this sort of commodity and that you can just package it up in the same way that giving access to someone to the bathroom in your shop is. It’s not the same.”
ADF is defending a number of creative professionals across the country who are being told they must use their artistic talents to express messages and celebrate events against their faith, including: Minnesota filmmakers Carl and Angel Larsen, Colorado graphic designer Lorie Smith, and Arizona artists Breanna Koski and Joanna Duka. In many cases, these individuals face burdensome fines and even jail time simply for running their businesses consistently with their faith.
As Kate explained, if the government is permitted to force these artists to express messages against their faith, we all lose.
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