The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to restore religious and speech freedoms in New Mexico, where the state Supreme Court recently ruled that abandoning one’s freedom is just the “price of citizenship.”
The dispute centers on the refusal by Elaine Huguenin, co-owner with her husband, Jonathan, of Elane Photography, to memorialize a same-sex ceremony planned by Vanessa Willock.
Willock, who found another photographer for the event, filed a complaint with the state under its anti-discrimination law. The state Supreme Court said the photographer had no right to not be forced to express statements through her work that violated her Christian beliefs.
The state court’s stunning ruling left the photographer with an order to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees to Willock and her partner.
The state ruling said Huguenin and her husband “now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.”
That, the state court judges ruled, was “the price of citizenship.”
“The idea that free people can be ‘compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives’ as the ‘price of citizenship’ is a chilling and unprecedented attack on freedom,” said Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is working on the case.
“We are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to make it clear that no American has to abandon their constitutionally protected freedoms just to make a living. No American should be punished or put out of business simply for disagreeing with the government’s opinion on a moral issue,” Lorence said.
Legal Counsel Jim Campbell added that every artist “must be free to create work that expresses what he or she believes and not be forced by the government to express opposing views.”
“Should the government force an African-American photographer to take pictures of a KKK rally?” he asked. “A government that can force anyone to promote messages against his or her will is a government out of control.”
To the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, the law firm explained the Huguenins “will serve anyone; they do not turn away any customers because of their protected class status.”
“But they will decline a request, as the First Amendment guarantees them the right to do, if the context would require them to express messages that conflict with their religious beliefs. The New Mexico Supreme Court … held that the Huguenins do not have a constitutional right to be free from compelled speech because they create expression for paying customers. That decision conflicts with this court’s compelled-speech precedent,” the pleading explained.
ADF reported a Rasmussen poll over the summer, shortly before the state court released its opinion, that said 85 percent of American adults believe a Christian photographer has the right to say no if asked to take pictures at a same-sex ceremony that conflicts with the photographer’s religious beliefs.
According to the petition, Huguenin, and not her customer, “is the speaker communicating through her photographs and books.”
“Her actions in choreographing, capturing, selecting, editing, producing, and arranging the final photographs and storybooks all affect, and ultimately determine, the messages conveyed through her images and books,” the complaint argues.
It explains the photographer previously had declined requests for nude maternity pictures and photographs portraying violence.
“Of particular relevance here is the Huguenins’ sincere religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. They believe that if they were to communicate a contrary message about marriage – by, for example, telling the story of a polygamous wedding ceremony – they would be disobeying God.”
It argues to overturn the state court, which found the case “teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others.”
The court said that “is the price of citizenship … one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life.”
If left alone, New Mexico’s ruling would require “marketers, advertisers, publicists, website designers, writers, videographers, and photographers” to violate their own faith and beliefs, the brief argues.
“It compels all professionals subject to the public accommodations, regardless of the nature or source of their convictions, to create expression that conflicts with their beliefs,” the petition states.
But the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Hurley case, “held that the compelled-speech doctrine forbids an application of a public-accommodation statute that compels a parade-hosting organization to express another group’s message.”
“In contrast, the court below upheld an application of a public-accommodations statute that requires Ms. Huguenin to create expression conveying messages contrary to her religious beliefs.”
WND reported when the state court, including judges Edward Chavez, Petra Jimenez Maes, Charles Daniels, Barbara Vigil and Richard Bosson, ruled against the photographer, because she has the option of going out of business.
The judges stated:
At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others. A multicultural, pluralistic society, one of our nation’s strengths, demands no less. The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead. The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life.”
In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.
When the district judge’s decision, which mandated that the photographer provide talent to the lesbians, came out it seemed to substantiate the concerns of opponents of a federal “hate crimes” bill signed into law by President Obama during his first year in office that gives homosexuals special rights. Attorney General Eric Holder admitted in a congressional hearing that under the measure, an attack on a homosexual would be dealt with differently than one on another citizen.
Benjamin Bull, chief counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, noted at the time: “Homosexuals got exactly what they wanted. In the marketplace of ideas, one side has now been censored. This [situation] is exactly what homosexual activists have in mind.”
A subsequent poll indicated that almost half of Americans believe Christians in the United States are being persecuted by same-sex marriage advocates who take legal action against them over their religious beliefs. Almost one in three Democrats believes such persecution is “necessary,” according to the poll.
The results were from a WND/WENZEL Poll conducted for WND by the public-opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies.
It found that 49.2 percent of all respondents consider the legal activism against Christians and their beliefs regarding homosexuality to be “persecution.”
The question was: “There is a trend developing in which gay activists are filing lawsuits against people who refuse to do business with them on moral/religious grounds – such as when a New Mexico photographer was sued by a lesbian couple for refusing to photograph their wedding. Knowing this, which of the following statements most closely represents what you think about this?”
More than two of three Republicans called it “persecution of Christians,” along with 45 percent of independents. Even 33.1 percent of Democrats had the same answer.
But 31 percent of Democrats, as well as 12 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of independents, said, “Such tactics are necessary.”