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Supreme Court rules in favor of Christian designer in religious liberty case

“Tolerance, not coercion, is our nation’s answer,” wrote Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch.

The Supreme Court of the United States. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The Supreme Court of the United States. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 30 in favor of Lorie Smith, a Christian website designer from Colorado, in 303 Creative v Elenis. Smith challenged Colorado’s anti-discrimination law that would have compelled her to design a website promoting gay marriage, which goes against her religious beliefs.

“Like many states, Colorado has a law forbidding businesses from engaging in discrimination when they sell goods and services to the public. Laws along these lines have done much to secure the civil rights of all Americans,” wrote Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch in the court’s decision. “But in this particular case, Colorado does not just seek to ensure the sale of goods or services on equal terms. It seeks to use its law to compel an individual to create speech she does not believe.”

“Tolerance, not coercion, is our nation’s answer,” he concluded. “The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place, where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands. Because Colorado seeks to deny that promise, the judgment is reversed.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the decision “a victory for the First Amendment not just in Colorado but all across the United States.”

“This law wasn’t just a threat to Christians either. Should a Muslim artist be compelled by the government to draw the image of Muhammed? Should Jewish artists be forced to create art that is antisemitic? No, absolutely not,” he added.

Rabbi Dov Fischer, vice president of the Coalition for Jewish Values, which represents Orthodox rabbis, stated that the court’s decision “sets a significant precedent for future cases evaluating religious liberty and freedom of expression.

“This was a simple case of religious liberty and free speech,” added Rabbi Moshe B. Parnes, the coalition’s southern regional vice president. “The real tragedy is that she had to go to the Supreme Court for protection against an obvious, patently unconstitutional form of government coercion and control.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said the decision “departs from decades of jurisprudence by creating an exception to protections against discrimination in public accommodations.”

She added that she and the president “will continue to rigorously enforce federal anti-discrimination protections and fight for the right of all people to participate equally in our society.”
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism condemned the decision, which it said will allow discrimination against minorities, including religious ones.

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