As the lawsuit notes, the Larsens are Christians who believe God has called them to use their talents to create media productions that honor God. The couple is “deeply concerned that American culture is increasingly turning away from the historic, biblically-orthodox definition of marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman” and that “more and more people are accepting the view that same-sex marriage is equivalent to one-man, one-woman marriage.” The Larsens want to be able to use the power of film and media production to “change hearts and minds” and to “celebrate and promote God’s design for marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman.”
However, the MHRA would impose restrictions on their Free Speech by imposing a requirement for them to use their talents and their company to spread a message the couple disagree with. The state’s human rights commission has explicitly stated that any business that creates “expressive wedding-related services” and declines to celebrate same-sex weddings is in violation of the law.
By refusing to film a same-sex wedding the Larsens could be subjected to the payment of a civil penalty to the state, as well as compensatory damages and punitive damages up to $25,000 per aggrieved party. They could also be charged with the criminal offense of discrimination, a misdemeanor under Minnesota law punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, up to 90 days in jail, or both.
The MHRA is thus being used to discriminate against Christians because the state disagrees with the content of their message, a clear violation of First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion.
“People should have the freedom to disagree on critical matters of conscience, which is why everyone, regardless of their view of marriage, can support the Larsens,” says Jeremy Tedesco, a senior counsel and vice president of U.S. Advocacy and Administration for Alliance Defending Freedom. “The same government that can force them to violate their faith and conscience can force any one of us to do the same. That’s why we plan to appeal this ruling to the 8th Circuit.”
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstockphotos.com
Slideshow adapted from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission article "Minnesota officials attempt to control the message of Christian filmmakers."
Used with permission.
Publication date: September 28, 2017