- - Sunday, December 4, 2022

So, how does an ordinary, amiable, law-abiding American citizen wind up at the Supreme Court?

Simple enough. I’m a graphic artist and website designer, and my home state of Colorado is trying to force me to create custom artwork and say something I don’t believe. And I don’t think any level of government — local, state or federal — should be able to do that to any of us, regardless of whether our beliefs are the same or different. Not in America, anyway.

I love few things more than creating art. Websites are my canvases, and I cherish the freedom to choose words, paint pictures, and select elements of artistic design with modern technology.

As I design, I choose every word, hue and icon, considering the perfect contrast and balance to express unique and custom messages for causes I’m passionate about. My clients love my custom artwork, too, and I love working with everyone to specially craft and express a message effectively. Understandably, my ability to do that depends largely on whether I agree with whatever message a prospective client brings to me.

I filter all the messages I’m asked to create through the prism of my core beliefs. If the message I’m asked to promote is consistent with my beliefs, something I’m passionate about, and have the expertise to create, I will likely design the project. If it doesn’t, I take care to recommend the person asking to some other artist. (We have plenty of gifted graphic artists in Colorado.) Because of my love for people, I welcome and serve everyone and have clients from all walks of life — including those who identify as LGBTQ. There are just some messages I won’t custom-create regardless of who asks me.

So, what kinds of messages can I not design or promote? Certain political messages. I don’t promote books or movies, casinos or gambling, or anything that mocks or denounces America. I also can’t design messages I believe degrade people who identify as LGBTQ or that disrespect minorities or people’s faith.

In every case, it’s the message — not the person — that makes the difference. I’ll create custom designs for anyone if the message is consistent with my deepest personal beliefs. In that respect, I don’t think I’m any different from most Americans — or from most artists, for that matter.

All artists, of course, have their particular enthusiasms, areas of interest, and expertise. My areas of passion include supporting children with disabilities, veterans and animal rescue. I also grew up with a mom who did a lot of wedding-related work, and it gave me a special desire to design custom art and tell stories about weddings.

Unfortunately, officials in my home state of Colorado see things differently. They say I’m not welcome in that space. And they would force me to say things about marriage I disagree with.

But my beliefs are beside the point; my art, according to Colorado, has to reflect the views of those government officials — not the convictions of my heart, the core of who I am.

I don’t want to be a government mouthpiece. And I don’t want you or our children to have to face that kind of censorship either. I don’t want anyone to suffer government overreach like I have that claims jurisdiction over my mind and soul. I want the government to respect everyone’s freedom to say what they believe and not punish some of us just because our beliefs may not jell with the government’s worldview.

I want the LGBTQ graphic designer to be protected. I don’t want the government to force a Democratic speechwriter to promote the Republican Party platform. I want the videographer who supports access to abortion not to be forced to make a film celebrating the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

That’s why, with the help of my attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom, I decided to challenge this injustice, and that challenge brings me to the Supreme Court.

I want every American to know that I’m standing for you. Whether you share my beliefs or have different beliefs. I’m standing for all of you who want to think and speak for yourself. To live in accord with your deepest beliefs. And if you’re an artist like me, decide — without government threats or intimidation — what you will express and promote through your custom artwork.

I’m here because freedom of speech is worthy of protection. I want to live and create freely. And I want you to enjoy that freedom, too.

• Lorie Smith is the owner of 303 Creative near Denver.

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