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Atheists: Supreme Court’s 303 Creative Ruling Uses Fabricated Case to Allow Religious Bigotry Against LGBTQ People

Washington, DC—Today, the religious equality organization American Atheists condemned the Supreme Court’s 6–3 ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, allowing a designer to discriminate against same-sex couples in the creation and sale of wedding websites.

“This disastrous decision puts business owners’ religious beliefs above the basic human dignity of LGBTQ people and other vulnerable groups,” said Geoffrey T. Blackwell, Litigation Counsel for American Atheists.

“Fifty years ago, the Court rejected the argument that the free speech rights of bigots trump nondiscrimination laws,” added Blackwell, referencing the 1976 case, Runyon v. McCrary, which upheld civil rights laws prohibiting racial discrimination. “Protections against racial, religious, and gender discrimination are all at grave risk after today’s decision. This corrupt Court is dismantling decades of hard-won advances.”

The plaintiff in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, Lorie Smith, is a would-be wedding website designer from Colorado. She claimed she would face punishment for her opposition to gay marriage because the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act requires that her business, a public accommodation, provide the same services to all people and treat all couples with the same level of dignity and respect.

American Atheists joined the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Center for Inquiry, and the American Humanist Association in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court. The organizations pointed out that the plaintiff had never actually designed wedding websites nor been subject to sanctions under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, and therefore did not have standing to sue.

On Thursday, June 29, Melissa Gira Grant at the New Republic reported that this lawsuit is even more problematic. Smith claimed that a same-sex couple, “Stewart” and “Mike,” had requested her services via an inquiry form. Yet as Grant found, the “Stewart” in question said he never submitted the inquiry form and was married to a woman at the time. “Somebody’s using false information in a Supreme Court filing document,” he told her.

“The 303 Creative case is built off a pack of lies. It was manufactured by the Religious Right for the express purpose of allowing widespread discrimination against LGBTQ people,” said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists. “This out-of-control Supreme Court has once again ignored the facts of a case and decades of precedent to do the bidding of its white Christian nationalist backers.”

In last year’s Kennedy v. Bremerton decision, the six religious extremist Justices similarly disregarded the facts of the case in order to arrive at their preferred conclusion. The majority opinion claimed that the plaintiff Kennedy, a Washington State football coach, had engaged in a “quiet, personal prayer.” In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor included pictures of Kennedy preaching to students following a game.

“The six conservative Justices keep showing that they’re less interested in upholding the law than acting as Christian nationalist politicians,” added Fish. “The Supreme Court is fundamentally broken. The only way to fix this problem is to reform and expand the Court.”