Lorie Smith, the Colorado website designer at the heart of the Supreme Court’s landmark 303 Creative v. Elenis June 30 decision upholding every American’s freedom of speech, is receiving a barrage of increasingly intense harassment, including serious death threats, following the 6–3 ruling.
“Especially in the last week, despite the victory last week, I do continue to face horrific attacks, people saying they hope I would be raped; they want to burn my house down; they know where I live, and they want to come kill me and my family,” Ms. Smith told The Epoch Times on July 5 in an exclusive interview.
“Our security team is monitoring all of the comments that come in very, very closely to determine the best way to protect Lorie and to take action consistent with the threat,” said Kellie Fiedorek, Senior Counsel and Government Affairs Director for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the public interest law firm that has represented Ms. Smith throughout her case.
“We cannot share any more about the internal conversations we are having, but it is deeply disheartening to see Lorie experience vicious harassment and death threats over her stand for all Americans’ free speech and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that just affirmed both those who agree and those who vehemently disagree with Lorie have the right to say what they believe without fear of government punishment,” Ms. Fiedorek said.
Ms. Smith said the intensity of the harassment reached a crescendo as the ruling was imminent during the High Court’s summer decision week at the end of June.
“Just last week, my website crashed with over 10 million attacks, messages saying things that would make your skin crawl,” Ms. Smith said. “It’s sad to me because, at the end of the day, when I am standing to protect those individuals who have submitted those hateful responses, standing to protect me and them as well, of course, it’s heartbreaking.”
Ms. Smith’s case arose from her concerns that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission officials would use the state’s anti-discrimination statute to force her to create websites that convey speech with which she disagrees, especially concerning traditional versus same-sex marriage. She had left a productive corporate web design and digital marketing career to start her own business, known as 303 Creative.
Ms. Smith was worried because the state had previously sought to use the law against Jack Phillips, a baker who objected to being forced to make cakes celebrating same-sex marriages, but she was encouraged when the High Court ruled in Phillips’s favor in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Colorado officials, however, continued their legal efforts against Mr. Phillips even after the decision. Like Ms. Smith, Mr. Phillips is defended by ADF.
Ms. Smith lost at the federal district court, but she appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals of the United States. When the appeals court ruled against her, Ms. Smith appealed to the Supreme Court, which accepted the case strictly for the purpose of deciding if a state government can use its laws “to compel an individual to create speech she does not believe.”
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