Today, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral argument in 303 Creative v. Elenis, a speculative, hypothetical case that could significantly weaken civil rights laws around the country and lead to more discrimination against LGBTQ people and racial and religious minorities.
Represented by the Christian nationalist outfit Alliance Defending Freedom, a Colorado website design business is challenging the state’s anti-discrimination law and arguing that it has a free speech and religious freedom right to deny service to hypothetical future customers who are same-sex couples. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the free speech argument in 303 Creative v. Elenis, even though the company does not offer design services for weddings and no same-sex couple has sought such a design or been denied service.
AU’s Amicus Brief: Anti-Discrimination Laws Protect Religious Minorities
Americans United for Separation of Church and State joined 29 religious freedom organizations in filing an amicus brief that explained how anti-discrimination laws like Colorado’s protect religious minorities as well as LGBTQ people and customers with other protected characteristics, such as race, sex, age and ability.
“Such a speech-based exemption from compliance with anti-discrimination laws would open the floodgates to the very discrimination that these laws are intended to guard against,” the brief explains. This kind of exemption would have “devastating consequences for all historically marginalized groups,” but Americans United and the other organizations focus “on the impact for members of minority religions.”
The brief documents the recent rise in anti-Muslim and antisemitic sentiment; offers real-life examples of businesses discriminating against people of minority faiths; and notes that Colorado in 2019 was the state the with largest number of religious discrimination complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
AU’s Rachel Laser: Businesses Must Be Open To All
“Decades ago we as a society agreed that businesses, which enjoy significant legal protections, must in return be open to all. Equality, dignity and humanity demand that everyone has the equal ability to access the goods and services they need, regardless of who they love, how they worship or what they look like,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United.
“This case could drag us back to a time when religious and other minority groups were forced to go door to door, seeking a business that would serve them and seeing only signs barring their presence: No Jews, No Blacks, No Irish. At a time when a former president is dining with anti-semites and Nazi sympathizers, the Court must reject this abuse of the First Amendment’s guarantees and protect the right of all of us to be treated equally under the law.”
Alliance Defending Freedom: Member Of Christian Nationalist Shadow Network
The group behind this case, the Alliance Defending Freedom, is an aggressive member of the billion-dollar shadow network AU has been fighting. In 1993, several televangelists and radio preachers – many of them Christian nationalists such as D. James Kennedy and James Dobson – founded ADF to destroy the wall separating church and state. Homophobia and bigotry are also baked into the ethos of ADF. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies ADF as a hate group. Alan Sears, who ran ADF for its first 25 years, coauthored a book entitled The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today. The title explains ADF’s goal: use “religious freedom” to oppose LGBTQ+ rights and equality. ADF also litigated the Masterpiece Cakeshop case in 2018, defending a bakery that refused to serve a gay couple and challenging the same civil rights law the court will hear argument on today and on the same grounds: religious freedom and free speech.
The amicus brief AU joined was authored by the Columbia Law School’s Law, Rights & Religion Project; Muslim Advocates; and Hogan Lovells US, LLP. A full list of amici can be found in the brief linked below.
Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
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