Scottsdale Legal Nonprofit Secured Religious Freedom Win In Supreme Court

Scottsdale Legal Nonprofit Secured Religious Freedom Win In Supreme Court

By Corinne Murdock |

The Scottsdale legal nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) won a religious freedom case at the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

SCOTUS ruled 6-3 at the end of June in 303 Creative v. Elenis against Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), as unconstitutional. The law would prohibit a Christian wedding website designer from refusing to create a same-sex wedding website.

The plaintiff, Lorie Smith, holds the Christian belief that marriage exists only between one man and one woman, and contests against the possibility that she either must produce content that “contradicts Biblical truth,” such as same-sex marriages, or cease business.

Ultimately, SCOTUS determined in a majority opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch that Smith’s creative expression constituted speech and that CADA therefore violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause.

“Ms. Smith’s websites will express and communicate ideas — namely, those that ‘celebrate and promote the couple’s wedding and unique love story’ and those ‘celebrat[e] and promot[e]’ what Ms. Smith understands to be a marriage,” stated Gorsuch. 

Gorsuch further criticized CADA for its fullest possible outcome: compelling speech of all manners and kinds from any commissioned person if their customer belongs to a CADA-protected class.

“Under Colorado’s logic, the government may compel anyone who speaks for pay on a given topic to accept all commissions on that same topic — no matter the message — if the topic somehow implicates a customer’s statutorily protected trait,” said Gorsuch. “Taken seriously, that principle would allow the government to force all manner of artists, speechwriters, and others whose services involve speech to speak what they do not believe on pain of penalty. The Court’s precedents recognize the First Amendment tolerates none of that.”

Smith does have LGBTQ clients; however, Smith won’t create content that runs counter to her beliefs.

After the SCOTUS ruling, ADF CEO and lead counsel Kristen Waggoner stated that differences of beliefs don’t constitute discrimination.

“Disagreement isn’t discrimination, and the government can’t mislabel speech as discrimination to censor it,” said Waggoner. “As the court highlighted, her decisions to create speech always turn on what message is requested, never on who requests it. [T]he government has never needed to compel speech to ensure access to goods and services.” 

Following the ruling, critics alleged that Smith fabricated a request for a same-sex wedding website after a news article insinuated she did. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser also derided Smith’s complaint as “a made-up case without the benefit of any real facts or customers.” ADF and Smith rejected those claims.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Grijalva: Americans Too Fixated on Border Crisis to Notice Religious Disrespect of Illegal Immigrants

Grijalva: Americans Too Fixated on Border Crisis to Notice Religious Disrespect of Illegal Immigrants

By Corinne Murdock |

Wednesday, Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-03) requested that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) cease confiscating illegal Sikh migrants’ religious items. Grijalva, along with Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20) and Judy Chu (D-CA-27), insisted that the practice constituted a violation of religious freedom.

Grijalva later told Arizona Luminaria that Americans were too busy complaining about the border crisis to notice that the illegal immigrants were enduring religious disrespect.

“All these festering issues get overwritten because everybody starts screaming about the border and the invasion, and so these go into the background,” said Grijalva. “I don’t think they’re background issues. Border Patrol is the largest law enforcement agency with the least amount of accountability in the country. And that’s the problem.”

Sikhism requires followers to wear a steel bracelet, uncut hair and beards, and a turban. The three representatives admonished CBP for reports of Sikh turbans and other religious items being confiscated at the border.

The trio issued their complaint letter to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus. The commissioner pledged earlier this month to investigate, but the three representatives insist that there hasn’t been progress.

READ THE COMPLAINT LETTER

Grijalva’s religious liberty stance is nuanced. He opposed the Trump administration’s protections for contractors whose religious beliefs dictated their employment decisions for LGBTQ+ individuals. 

“Religion is not a license to discriminate,” tweeted Grijalva. 

Grijalva identifies himself a Catholic, but doesn’t believe that Christians may oppose LGBTQ+ lifestyles. He called former President Donald Trump’s 2017 attendance of the Values Voter Summit “repulsive” because of its sponsorship by the religious think tank opposed to LGBTQ+ lifestyles, the Family Research Council (FRC). 

Last month, Grijalva voted to codify same-sex marriage into federal law: the Respect for Marriage Act. The law would repeal a 1996 protection for states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage.

Grijalva was joined in his vote Arizona’s other Democratic representatives, who also identify as Catholic: Representatives Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-02), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07), and Greg Stanton (D-AZ-09).

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Religious Freedoms Now Protected During A State Of Emergency

Religious Freedoms Now Protected During A State Of Emergency

By Terri Jo Neff |

A new law will take effect in Arizona this summer to prevent state officials from shutting down churches or religious services during a public health or public safety emergency.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2507 on Monday, defining a religious service as an essential service during a declared state of emergency. The legislation also  protects the fundamental right of Arizonans to exercise their religion freely during a time of crisis and further protects a religious organization from discrimination when it operates or seeks to operate during a state of emergency.

HB2507, which was sponsored by House Republican Majority Leader Ben Toma, notes the U.S. Constriction expressly protects the free exercise of religion, including the right to hold beliefs  inwardly and secretly as well as the right “to act on those beliefs outwardly and publicly.”

Toma, who received bipartisan support for HB2507 in the House, said he introduced the bill to ensure Arizonans’ religious freedoms are forever protected.

“During the pandemic, while Arizona was blessed with government leaders that respected religious freedom and the essential role of religious organizations to the people, that wasn’t the situation in some neighboring states,” Toma said. “This law ensures that religious freedom and services in Arizona will continue to be protected in the future, regardless of any emergency, or who leads the state.”

Rep. Lupe Diaz, himself a pastor, said religion is an essential service and religious freedom is essential, which was especially true during the pandemic when Arizonans were facing so many challenges.

“As we look at being able to exercise our religious liberties, which is a constitutional right, it is amazing that we can be denied gathering at churches, yet have stadiums, malls and box stores open,” Diaz said last week in explaining his vote for HB2507.

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, also applauded the signing of HB2507 into law. She noted that while public officials have the authority to protect health and public safety, they cannot suspend the First Amendment, including the free exercise of religion.  

“By signing HB 2507 the Governor acknowledges the fact that religious organizations provide essential services that are vital to the health and welfare of the public,” Herrod said Monday. “They not only meet the spiritual needs of our communities, but they also support social services, health care, and economic activity.”