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Colorado web design lawsuit isn’t really about gay rights

Dec 15, 2022

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Once again, Colorado is front and center before the Supreme Court in a battle over the state’s laws protecting same-sex couples from discrimination. A web designer is challenging the state’s anti-discrimination laws, saying she should not be forced to create sites that go against her faith. Straight Arrow News contributor Tim Carney says the Colorado web design lawsuit isn’t really about gay rights. It’s about government power, and whether a state can compel a citizen to violate their conscience.

Such misrepresentation is typical. When Colorado baker Jack Phillips refused to participate in gay weddings, he was accused of refusing “to sell cakes to gay people.” In truth, Philips’ objection was to custom-designing a cake that celebrates a same-sex wedding. Phillips, a Christian, doesn’t believe same-sex unions are morally equivalent to marriage, and so it would violate his conscience to force him to take part in such celebrations. In a similar way, Philips turned down cakes for Halloween or divorce parties, which also go against his religious beliefs.

The current case before the Supreme Court is similar. Lorie Smith runs her own web design company called 303 Creative. Colorado has an anti-discrimination law that would compel her to design websites for claiming beliefs she doesn’t share. She has sued to strike down this law. Again, Smith isn’t seeking the right to refuse gay customers. She would obviously make a website for any client, regardless of sexual identity or preference. It’s the content of the site where her conscience constrains her. 

She won’t build a website proclaiming beliefs she holds to be wrong. The question here is about what powers the government of Colorado has. Does Colorado have the right to compel its citizens to violate their own consciences and endorse the official morality of the state government? Consider the implications if Smith loses this case and Colorado wins? Could the government force a professional ghostwriter to write a book advocating legalization of all abortion or advocating the banning of all abortion? Could the government force a baker to make a custom cake celebrating a child marriage? Could the government force a mural painter to accept a commission of a mural declaring “There is no god but Allah?” If Colorado has no tolerance for discrimination, shouldn’t an atheist painter be required to create such a celebration of Allah? If an atheist painter turned down such a project, would he be guilty of discrimination? No. 

If this painter refuse to sell a painting of his to a Muslim customer, that would be discrimination. The distinction here is obvious.

There’s another religious liberty case before the U.S. Supreme Court. And if you’re not careful about where you get your news, you might believe that it has something to do with Christian businessmen refusing to serve gay customers. That’s the clear implication by celebrity Jesuit priest, Father James Martin, who wrote as if the latest case is about the right to “refuse to serve people of a different religion or people who practice things that Christians disagree with.” 

Such misrepresentation is typical. When Colorado baker Jack Phillips refused to participate in gay weddings, he was accused of refusing “to sell cakes to gay people.” In truth, Philips’ objection was to custom designing a cake that celebrates a same sex wedding. Phillips, a Christian doesn’t believe same-sex unions are morally equivalent to marriage, and so it would violate his conscience to force him to take part in such celebrations. In a similar way, Philips turned down cakes for Halloween or divorce parties, which also go against his religious beliefs.

The current case before the Supreme Court is similar. Laurie Smith runs her own web design company called 303 Creative. Colorado has an anti-discrimination law that would compel her to design websites for claiming beliefs she doesn’t share. She has sued to strike down this law. Again, Smith isn’t seeking the right to refuse gay customers. She would obviously make a website for any client, regardless of sexual identity or preference. It’s the content of the site where her conscience constrains her. 

She won’t build a website proclaiming beliefs she holds to be wrong. The question here is about what powers the government of Colorado has. Does Colorado have the right to compel its citizens to violate their own consciences and endorse the official morality of the state government? Consider the implications if Smith loses this case and Colorado wins? Could the government force a professional ghostwriter to write a book advocating legalization of all abortion or advocating the banning of all abortion? Could the government force a baker to make a custom cake celebrating a child marriage? Could the government force a mural painter to accept a commission of a mural declaring “There is no god but Allah?” If Colorado has no tolerance for discrimination, shouldn’t an atheist painter be required to create such a celebration of Allah? If an atheist painter turned down such a project, would he be guilty of discrimination? No. 

If this painter refuse to sell a painting of his to a Muslim customer, that would be discrimination. The distinction here is obvious. That it is blurred over by some media, and even by a Catholic priest whenever it comes to gay marriage, is a sign that our culture war poisons the mind.

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