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The United States Supreme Court’s decision in 303 Creative v Elenis sheds light on two cultural trends in America, one is fairly obvious the other more subtle yet no less significant.
First, free speech is for everyone. No one should be forced to say something they do not believe. Every American should be free to say what they believe without fear of government punishment. The U.S Supreme Court ruled in favor of free speech, holding that Colorado cannot punish graphic artist Lorie Smith for creating websites consistent with her beliefs. Moreover, the right not to speak or create messages inconsistent with her beliefs is worthy of the same protection.
This is a landmark decision in favor of free speech and a victory for all Americans.
The Supreme Court agreed that Lorie works with everyone, including those who identify as LGBT, and that her decisions to create websites always turn on the message requested, never the person requesting. That means that anti-discrimination laws can – and do – coexist with the First Amendment.
Thankfully, the Court reaffirmed that the Constitution protects Americans against government-mandated speech, and that the government cannot exclude people from the marketplace simply because it dislikes their beliefs. Millions of people of good will—from diverse faith traditions and no faith at all—believe that marriage is a union joining husband and wife. Regardless of the shifting winds of cultural orthodoxy, no one should be bullied, persecuted, or banished from the public square for peacefully living out that belief. The Supreme Court’s ruling protects both Lorie and the LGBT website designer even though they have different views on marriage. And that’s a good thing.
The second trend, overlooked by most of the media coverage of the case, is the recognition of decades of work establishing a principled champion of free speech in America. The victory in 303 Creative v Elenis marks the fifteenth win at the U.S. Supreme Court in the last twelve years for Alliance Defending Freedom. People who value the God-given rights guarded by our Constitution understand it is often the viewpoint the government dislikes which is most in need of protection. Dedication to this principle was once the hallmark of groups like the ACLU. However, as the Washington Examiner recently pointed out, today’s ACLU is apt to take the side of government censorship of unpopular views and coercion of speech. They seem to have forgotten the vital truth that if we want freedom for ourselves, we must protect it for others.
While many Americans share similar beliefs as Lorie Smith, others may find those beliefs abhorrent. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court’s decision in Lorie’s case ensures that no matter what one’s beliefs may be, the freedom to speak and live by them remains secure. So, whether one shares these beliefs or finds them reprehensible, one should hope the winning streak continues.
Alliance Defending Freedom’s fifteenth Supreme Court win reaffirms a bedrock principle: the government cannot force us to say something we do not believe. Protecting free speech ensures pluralism and guards against government-mandated conformity. This decision underscores that each of us can live peacefully with one another even when we do not agree on important matters.
Maintaining civil discourse on matter of public policy requires that openminded, truth seeking citizens must be able to hear from all viewpoints in order to make an informed decision on issues of importance. Open dialogue and a free marketplace of ideas combined with reverence for the right to speak and live according to one’s convictions are essential for free men to live amongst free men. We will not always agree, but civility and respect for one another are necessary for a peaceful and pluralistic society. For over two centuries this has made our nation a beacon of hope to those around the world living in the darkness of totalitarian regimes. The courage of ordinary citizens like Lorie Smith aided by Alliance Defending Freedom, will ensure the beacon stays lit well into the future.
Lathan Watts is vice-president for public affairs at Alliance Defending Freedom.Published in