Attorney General O’Connor Leads Coalition to Support Free Speech of Small Business Owners

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General John O’Connor has led a coalition of 17 state attorneys general in filing an amicus brief at the U.S. Supreme Court supporting small business owners’ First Amendment right to free speech and religious freedom.

In Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, the coalition argues that the U.S. Supreme Court should hear the appeal of the owners of a small cake business who were fined by Oregon courts for declining to bake a specialized cake for an event they did not support.  Custom cakes are artistic works protected by the First Amendment, the coalition argues. Due to the Klein’s religious beliefs, they declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, which led to an initial $135,000 fine and forced them to close their business and move to a different state.

“The government should protect religious freedom, not threaten it,” Attorney General O’Connor said. “Every Oklahoman and American has the right to express their First Amendment rights without fear. I am committed to preserving the First Amendment and will continue to ensure religious liberties are protected.”

In the brief, Attorney General O’Connor writes, “Artistic work, whether viewed as pure speech itself or as conduct that is inherently expressive, has always received full First Amendment protection. Even when artistic works may seemingly lack any aesthetic or communicative value, this Court has determined that those works will be treated as expression entitled to full protection under the First Amendment if the individual made a serious attempt at creating art.”

Joining Attorney General O’Connor are the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

Read the brief, here.