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The SCOTUS let stand a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that said that a wedding photographer could not refuse to photograph a gay wedding on religious grounds. This means that the movement towards legitimizing gay rights in this country is continuing. The question that I have in light of this ruling is, could a business like Elane Photography, the defendant in the suit, designate themselves as a religious organization in order to exempt themselves from civil rights laws?
In other words, when I walk into a secular business, I expect them to provide services. But if I were to walk into the doors of a Christian ministry, I would expect them to be in existence for the purpose of ministering to conservative fundamentalists and proselytizing nonbelievers. This ruling will force many such businesses to clarify whether they are a secular business or religious organization. The ruling is clear that they can't have it both ways.
The company's owners, Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, are Christians who oppose gay marriage. Because taking photographs can be seen as a form of speech, the First Amendment protects them from being required to "express messages that conflict with their religious beliefs," their attorneys said in court papers. Elane Photography has previously declined requests to take nude maternity pictures and images depicting violence, its lawyers said.Another implication will be, can such photographers be forced to take pictures of porn? Violence? Extramarital affairs? One critical difference between yesterday's ruling and the three things mentioned is that being gay is biological, not behavioral. In other words, Elane's could still refuse to do business with someone who wanted them to photograph a Skinhead parade.
The Alliance Defending Freedom represented the studio.
"Only unjust laws separate what people say from what they believe," said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. "The First Amendment protects our freedom to speak or not speak on any issue without fear of punishment. We had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would use this case to affirm this basic constitutional principle; however, the court will likely have several more opportunities to do just that in other cases of ours that are working their way through the court system."On their website, the Alliance Defending Freedom says that the freedom of all professionals -- no matter what they believe -- is in jeopardy.
Photography is Elaine’s artistic lens. She crafts and shapes the moments that become memories through the photo stories she creates. Her art is so much a part of her that there are some stories she just can’t tell.They ask the following questions:
In 2006, Elaine Huguenin and co-owner husband, Jonathan, of Elane Photography, were asked to help a lesbian couple “celebrate their commitment ceremony” by photographing the event. After wrestling with the request, Elaine respectfully declined to participate, explaining that their Christian beliefs were in conflict with the message communicated by the ceremony. Neither same-sex “marriage” nor civil unions even existed in New Mexico at the time.
Should a photographer in a same-sex relationship be forced by the government to take photos to promote a conservative local church’s marriage conference?My answer is that there is a big difference between depicting something that is behavioral and something that is biological. The other thing is that it is important to be upfront about what you believe and why you believe it. For instance, in either case, being up front about who you are, what you believe, and why you believe it will prevent most of these conflicts from ever taking place.
Should a Democrat baker be forced to make a Ronald Reagan cake celebrating the Republican National Convention?
The other thing is that these cases reveal that there is a blatant ignorance of science in our society. Unlike those who felt that God quit speaking after the Bible was completed, I feel that God never stopped speaking to us. He left us the Bible and volumes of writings from church fathers who had known the apostles. I think that he wanted us to become a pastoral socialistic society where everyone helped everyone else. Christianity thought up socialism well before Karl Marx did. But I think that after we got it so wrong for so many centuries he saw fit to reveal knowledge through science so that we would see the truth for ourselves about how to live better lives. So based on what we know about science, God made gays they way they are, and the rest of us should respect God's will.
There is still freedom for people to express themselves through their art. The catch is that you have to be upfront about the fact that you're a religious or political organization if that is what you believe. To imply that you're a secular business open to all customers when you're not is a matter of bearing false witness. And that is the cause of most of these conflicts.
But Tobias Barrington Wolff, a University of Pennsylvania law professor representing the New Mexico couple, said "no court in the United States has ever found that a business selling commercial services to the general public has a First Amendment right to turn away customers on a discriminatory basis.
"The New Mexico Supreme Court applied settled law when it rejected the company's argument in this case, and the Supreme Court of the United States was correct to deny certiorari review. The time had come for this case to be over, and we are very happy with the result."
Attitudes toward gay relationships have changed rapidly in the United States in recent years. New Mexico is one of the 17 states where gay marriage is now legal.