You operate a family-owned photography business which, among other services, creatively captures weddings on film. Further, imagine that you’re a Christian photographer and due to your religious convictions, decide to turn down certain photo shoots including “commitment ceremonies” for same-sex couples. Now, imagine your shock when a judge orders you to pay $6,637.94 to settle a lawsuit brought by an individual who complained about this alleged act of “discrimination.”
That’s what happened last year to Jon and Elaine Huguenin, owners of Elaine Photography LLC when Vanessa Willock filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. Willock argued that she was discriminated against due to her sexual orientation. The Huguenin’s maintain that they passed on the opportunity to photograph the ceremony because their Christian beliefs were in conflict with Willock’s request. Simply put, Jon and Elaine had no obligation or desire to surrender their religious integrity for a buck.
What happened to this husband and wife duo is yet another example of what I mentioned earlier: political activists and so-called “progressives” on the left are using “discrimination” and “hate speech” laws to silence freedom of religious expression. Senior counsel Jordan Lorence, from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), is appealing the decision on behalf of the Huguenins. He believes, and I concur, that if these precedents aren’t quickly overturned, “Christians could be forced to advocate for viewpoints with which they disagree or to participate in events that violate their conscience.”
There are twenty states with non-discrimination acts on the books. Left unchecked, homosexual activists could strong-arm churches into permitting civil union ceremonies in their sanctuary, force pastors to officiate such unions against their will, and fine photographers, catering services, florists, bakers, wedding planners, musicians or other businesses who, due to their religious convictions, elect not to service certain cliental.
Lorence argues that “The government cannot make people choose between their faith and their livelihood. Could the government force a vegetarian videographer to create a commercial for the new butcher shop in town? American business owners do not surrender their constitutional rights at the marketplace gate.” Ironically, as ADF points out, at the time of this judgment the state of New Mexico didn’t recognize either same-sex marriage or homosexual civil unions. Which begs the question: Why, then were the Huguenin’s fined?
I submit that this is the tip of the iceberg.
The next step by activists on the left is to shut down the exercise of religious speech starting with those who oppose same-sex marriage and the redefinition of a family. That’s what happened when Boston Catholic Charities who, on March 10, 2006, stopped serving as an adoption agency because they couldn’t comply with a Massachusetts law forbidding discrimination against placing children with same-sex couples.
I could site dozens of such examples where the message is the same: change your business model, pay a fine, or close your doors. Using the courts to force private businesses into violating their own convictions is nothing short of coercion. I’d say that’s politically correctness gone wild. Such speech control minimizes the free exchange of ideas and, in turn, permits only one side of the debate a voice. If this trend continues, we, as a nation, will take a giant step toward the fascist speech and thought control prevalent in totalitarian nations.
Whether in the classroom, in business, or in the public square, using “discrimination” and “hate speech” laws to ban religious thought and expression is wrong. It’s un-American. And it’s why we should stand with ADF as they fight this battle to preserve our religious freedoms.