Justice Amy Coney Barrett was urged to recuse herself from an upcoming Supreme Court case on free speech and LGBT issues by former members of a niche Christian group she is affiliated with, arguing the faith organization has discriminatory policies against same-sex marriage.

Former members of the People of Praise organization recently told the Guardian that the justice’s “lifelong and continued” membership in the Christian group means she cannot rule impartially in the case surrounding a Colorado web designer who says her religious beliefs prevent her from creating custom wedding websites that celebrate same-sex marriages. Despite the request from former People of Praise members who call themselves “survivors” of the organization, legal experts say there’s “no basis” for Barrett to recuse herself.

“I think there is not a strong legal argument for her recusal if the basis for the suggestion is the views of the group that they attribute to her,” Jonathan Entin, a constitutional law professor at Case Western University, told the Washington Examiner.


“Supreme Court justices have views and are connected with a lot of organizations, a lot of groups just in general, and that’s not enough,” Entin said, adding it would be “a different situation if that group were a party to the case.”

The case in question is 303 Creative LLC v. Aubrey Elenis and surrounds custom web developer Lorie Smith, who is arguing on the basis of free speech that Colorado’s public accommodation or anti-discrimination law has barred her from working on wedding websites for nearly six years by preventing her from denying service if a customer asks her to design a webpage celebrating same-sex unions.

The former People of Praise members point to Barrett’s former role on the board of Trinity Schools Inc, a private group of Christian schools affiliated with the People of Praise that prevented children of same-sex parents from attending the school.

In a faculty guide published in 2015, the year Barrett joined the board, the language suggests “homosexual acts” had “no place in the culture of Trinity Schools.” Such policies were in place before and after Barrett joined the board.

“I don’t believe that someone in her position, who is a member of this group, could put those biases aside, especially in a decision like the one coming up,” said Maura Sullivan, 46, who grew up in the People of Praise community in South Bend, Indiana. Sullivan says she is bisexual and said when she came out to her parents at the age of 19, she was “cut off” from her family.

Sullivan and her parents have since rekindled their relationship, and they are no longer members of People of Praise.

Paul Collins, a legal studies and political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, also contended that Barrett is unlikely to recuse herself because “the allegations of a conflict are too broad,” he told Newsweek.

Likewise, Smith’s lead attorney, Kristen K. Waggoner of the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, argues that her client’s request does not ask the justices to allow her to deny services based on a customer’s sexual identity; rather, it is the ability to refuse a client based on the content on the request. Smith contends she has worked with LGBT clients on projects that do not conflict with her religious beliefs.


“A win for Lori would not only be a win for her, it would also be a win for the LGBT graphic designer who doesn’t want to be forced to create art and promote messages that they disagree with,” Waggoner told the Washington Examiner.

Arguments over the case will be heard by the high court on Monday, Dec. 5. A decision in the case likely won’t be posted for months and will likely come before June 2023.

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