Amidst all the rightful focus on government censorship and election interference, another major story is brewing over at the Supreme Court. On Monday, the Justices heard oral arguments in a case centering on a web designer who has religious objections to making websites for same-sex couples.
Naturally, Lorie Smith, who runs a company called 303 Creative, is based in Colorado. That state has become ground zero for religious liberty cases, made infamous by its persecution of cake baker Jack Phillips.
During oral argument, the conservative justices seemed to lean toward siding with Smith, who has asserted that it violates her religious beliefs to be forced to make websites for gay marriages. Two exchanges stuck out to me as providing some insight into why the winds are blowing in that direction.
The first involved Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who managed to elicit this nonsensical word salad from Colorado’s Solicitor General.
Barrett: Can a designer decline to serve a Catholic club because they disagree w/ their views on marriage? SG: Yes it’s not status based discr. Bar: But the designer can’t decline to do a SSM design? SG: Yes because SSM is inextricably intertwined with status (& religion isn’t).
— Roger Severino (@RogerSeverino_) December 5, 2022
The amount of doublespeak there is simply incredible. Colorado has created a system where business owners can discriminate against religious people but religious people aren’t allowed to observe their own beliefs in their everyday lives. The arbitrary distinction of “status” is simply a cheap excuse to legalize ideological hypocrisy. Barrett’s line of questioning was obviously meant to highlight that, and she succeeded.
My favorite exchange of the day involved Justice Neil Gorsuch, though. While asking the solicitor general about Jack Phillips’ case, he managed to perfectly expose the dystopian nature of Colorado’s laws. The below doesn’t cover everything of note said, so be sure to listen to the entire thing.
Gorsuch: “Jack Phillips [the cake baker in Masterpiece Cakeshop] had to go through a reeducation program, did he not?”
CO Solicitor General: “It was a training to educate him about Colorado law.
Gorsuch: “Some might be excused for calling that a reeducation program.” pic.twitter.com/tuKx7MPG9Z
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) December 5, 2022
Gorsuch actually started things off by correcting the solicitor general’s description of the case, which was satisfying on its own. He then moved to address the Colorado law’s protection of religious liberty, stating with a lot of snark that it’s supposed to do so “in theory.” That lead the solicitor general to make the incredible statement that there had been no instance of the law not respecting religious liberty.
For understandable reasons, Gorsuch wasn’t really interested in hearing such obvious nonsense, noting that Jack Phillips had been put through a re-education program for honoring his religious convictions. That left the solicitor general stammering in an attempt to explain how it wasn’t a re-education program even though its purpose was to re-educate.
Listening to that, Gorsuch is pretty obviously going to side with the web designer, and that’s the proper decision given that the basic tenets of religious liberty are at stake here. It’s not hard to judge where Barrett is going to end up either, and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas are slam dunks if history is any guide. That really just leaves Justice Kavanaugh as the swing vote because Justice Roberts will do what he always does, which is be a coward who attempts to carve out some unworkable middle ground.
When the Jack Phillips case was decided four years ago, the court chickened out, essentially giving him the win on a technicality that didn’t address the root issue. Unfortunately, the harassment of Phillips and others continues to this day. Hopefully, the Supreme Court is ready to put an end to the insanity with a decisive ruling.
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