A Louisville, Kentucky mother is the latest person to win a victory for free speech in America after a federal district court ruled that a city law violated her First Amendment rights.
A related free speech case will soon be argued in the Supreme Court, and it is hoped the Court will reiterate to local governments across the nation the same sentiment and constitutional fortitude the lower court demonstrated.
Chelsey Nelson is the owner of Chelsey Nelson Photography and, much like Jack Phillips, the embattled owner of Masterpiece Cake in Lakewood, Colorado, she too has been mandated to produce material she disagrees with morally. In Nelson’s case, she was required by a Louisville law to write blog posts and create photographs in celebration of same-sex marriages, as well as to produce photographs demeaning others or articulating political views with which she disagrees.
An opinion piece by Jonathan Scruggs for Fox News delved deeper into the case.
“Running her business consistent with her beliefs means the city could slap her with investigations, damages, and court orders,” he explained.
“This went beyond economics, though. While Chelsey developed a love for photography at a young age, she’s primarily focused on weddings. Not only are weddings beautiful and joy-filled events, they signal the beginning of a profound and sacred commitment. Like so many others, Chelsey believes in God’s design for marriage, so she uses her role as photographer to celebrate that idea. Louisville’s law tried to force her to forsake her faith and promote something she doesn’t believe in — to amplify the government-approved view of marriage rather than her own.”
“That’s where this story transcends even the important topic of marriage. The government shouldn’t be forcing any artist to speak any message they disagree with, whether about marriage or anything else. That basic freedom protects the LGBT graphic artist who doesn’t want to create websites condemning same-sex marriage, the Democrat artist who doesn’t want to create posters promoting the Republican platform, and the Muslim calligrapher who doesn’t want to write flyers promoting Christianity. If the First Amendment protects them, shouldn’t it protect Chelsey, too?”
Along with attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, Nelson challenged Louisville’s law and won.
The district court wrote in its ruling, “the government may not force singers or writers or photographers to articulate messages they don’t support. Because speech is categorically different under the federal Constitution, local laws must treat it differently, too.”
“The freedom of speech—especially for minority views—is a core premise of our democratic republic.”
“The court got it right,” Scruggs continued. “The government shouldn’t be in the business of imposing its orthodoxy on its citizens and silencing those who disagree. You don’t leave your right to free speech behind when you choose to make a living for your family, and Chelsey — like all Americans — should be free to express her beliefs — even if the government disagrees with them.”
“But Chelsey is not the only wife and mom who needs to teach a class in constitutional law to certain government bureaucrats,” he wrote.
“This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear 303 Creative v. Elenis, a nearly identical case that involves a graphic artist named Lorie Smith. Lorie wants the same freedom as Chelsey — to create art and websites consistent with the core of who she is. But, much like Louisville, Colorado officials are forcing Lorie to create websites promoting ideas about marriage that violate her faith. Once again, the issue is whether free speech protects each of us or whether government officials get to dictate what people can say and create.”
Scruggs concluded, “Let’s hope that Chelsey’s case is a “coming attraction” for officials across the country trying to coercively push their agendas rather than protect the freedom of all Americans. Sometimes it takes the courage of those like Chelsey and Lorie to remind officials of basic lessons like these.”
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