4. Major Religious Liberty vs. LGBT Rights Cases
Slide 4 of 12
Masterpiece Cakeshop: At the start of the year, a Federal Court ruled that Christian cake artist Jack Phillips could continue to sue the state of Colorado in a claim that says the state had an “anti-religious bias” against him. Meanwhile, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had opened another case against Phillips – despite having lost in the Supreme Court in 2018 – claiming Phillips had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to bake a cake celebrating a person’s gender transition from male to female. Phillips declined to make the cake based on his deeply held Christian beliefs.
In March, however, the commission announced it was withdrawing its suit. As a part of an agreement between Phillips and the state, upon the state withdrawing their second suit against the Masterpiece Cake decorator, Phillips agreed to voluntarily withdraw his joint suit with the Alliance Defending Freedom against the state.
Kentucky Wedding Photographer: A Christian wedding photographer filed a suit in November against a Louisville, Ky., ordinance that would force her to photograph same-sex weddings. The ordinance would also force the photographer to refrain from posting about her religious beliefs on her business’ website.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed the suit in federal court on behalf of the photographer, Chelsey Nelson, who owns Chelsey Nelson Photography. Nelson’s business specializes in wedding photography and blogging.
The Louisville ordinance makes it unlawful “for a person to deny an individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodation, … on the ground of … sexual orientation,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit claims the Louisville ordinance violates the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion, the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process and the establishment clause as it would force her to participate “in religious exercises” that aren’t consistent with her beliefs. The suit also argues that the law violates the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Nelson is a Christian whose religious beliefs “shape her business, her art, and her creativity,” the suit says. This is an on-going case.
Colorado Graphic designer: Attorneys representing a Christian website designer and graphic artist named Lorie Smith filed an appeal in October against a Colorado law that could force her to promote same-sex marriage against her religious beliefs.
The case dates back to 2016 when the Alliance Defending Freedom sued the state over its application of an anti-discrimination law – the same law in question in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
In the case of Smith and her studio, 303 Creative, the state found that although she serves all customers, including LGBT ones, because she says her faith prevents her from designing websites or graphics promoting same-sex marriage she had violated the anti-discrimination law.
The ADF appealed the court’s decision to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Creative professionals should be free to peacefully live and work according to their faith without fear of coercion, discrimination, or intimidation by the state,” said ADF senior counsel Kate Anderson in regard to Smith. “Just because a multimedia artist creates expression that communicates one viewpoint doesn’t mean the government can require her to express all viewpoints, especially when that forced expression violates her religious convictions.”
The ADF asserts that the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s Free Speech Clause, Free Exercise Clause, Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause.
Photo courtesy: ©Alliance Defending Freedom