The Supreme Court Has Another Chance to Save the First Amendment

Simply because a person engages in a commercial interaction doesn’t give that person the right to compel others to say things that violate their conscience. If it does, then the First Amendment is useless.

Colorado is notorious for manipulating public-accommodation laws to coerce speech and punish thought crimes. The state’s most famous victim is Jack Phillips, the man who refused to create a specialized cake for the marriage ceremony of a same-sex couple (before gay marriage was even legalized) because of his religious objections. Phillips’s decade-long, and ongoing, struggle against the imperious bigots of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and their private allies, has nearly destroyed his business. But this concerted, premeditated effort has not only been intended to punish Phillips. It’s meant to dissuade other dissenters as well.

The 7–2 Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop was a narrow legal victory for Phillips, but it largely punted on the question of religious liberty. Now, the Supreme Court has agreed to take on 303 Creative v. Elenis, a case involving a website designer named Lorie Smith, who is challenging the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s ability to compel her to create websites that violate her religious beliefs. In many ways, the case is similar to Masterpiece Cakeshop, and, so, unsurprisingly, the media have unsheathed the same lazy framing.

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