Christian Filmmakers Fight Back Against Minnesota Law Requiring Them to Work Same-Sex Weddings

Carl and Angel Larsen, the couple who owns the Minnesota-based Telescope Media Group. In Dec. 2016, the Larsens filed suit against a state law that would compel them to film same-sex wedding ceremonies despite their religious objections. | (Screenshot:YouTube/Alliance Defending Freedom)

A Christian filmmaking couple argued before a federal appellate panel on Tuesday that a Minnesota law that requires them to provide services to same-sex weddings denies them their religious freedom rights.

Carl and Angel Larsen, who run Telescope Media Group, saw their original lawsuit against Minnesota's human rights commissioner dismissed in September 2017.

At the time, Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim argued that the Larsens' plan to clarify on their website that they don't serve gay weddings due to their religious beliefs that marriage is solely between one man and one woman would be "akin to a 'White Applicants Only' sign."

Carl Larsen said he and his wife have worked "with many LGBT people on our film projects. We benefit from their creativity, their friendship and their business.

"Our ability to laugh, dialogue and work together gives us great hope that our nation can transcend political and cultural disagreements that so easily fracture our communities," he added, according to The Star Tribune.

"But the Minnesota government is attempting to destroy that hope."

Judges Jane Kelly, Bobby E. Shepherd and David R. Stras, who listened to arguments from both sides, suggested they would be making a decision on the filmmakers' appeal in the next couple of months.

Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey insisted that the law is meant to protect everyone, and that religious believers should not be exempt from it.

"The state's position in this case is that conduct matters, and that when you are selling goods and services you should sell goods and services to all people in the state of Minnesota," Lindsey said, according to Fox News affiliate KMSP.

Larsen explained the significance of the couple's business, positioning that "every story we tell magnifies Jesus like a telescope. Hence the name of our business, Telescope Media Group."

He said that state officials have warned that if they "express stories consistent with our belief about marriage, they'll force us to tell stories about marriage that violate those beliefs under threat of steep fines and even going to jail."

Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the Larsens, said that the couple can face punitive damages of up to $25,000, or even be sent to 90 days in jail if they are deemed to be breaking state law.

"How far can the government go when it comes to marriage? Can they force people to promote ideas about marriage that violate their beliefs? So this is a very important case," Tedesco argued.

Back in January, Tedesco said that the state should not be permitted to threaten artists with fines and jail for living according to their beliefs in the artistic marketplace.

"Americans should have the freedom to disagree on significant matters of conscience, which is why everyone, regardless of their view of marriage, should support the Larsens," the lawyer said.

"Government is supposed to be freedom's greatest protector, not its greatest threat. That's why we are asking the 8th Circuit to reverse the district court's decision."

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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