Christian Filmmakers Must Work Gay Weddings Despite Religious Beliefs, Minnesota Court Rules

Christian business owners talk about their court cases in a panel hosted by The Heritage Foundation, posted on September 6, 2017.
Christian business owners talk about their court cases in a panel hosted by The Heritage Foundation, posted on September 6, 2017. | (Photo: The Heritage Foundation YouTube screencap)

A Minnesota court has ruled that a Christian filmmaking couple must document gay weddings despite their religious beliefs that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

Alliance Defending Freedom, the law firm representing Carl and Angel Larsen of Telescope Media Group, announced on Wednesday that it will appeal against Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim's decision.

"Tolerance is a two-way street. Creative professionals who engage in the expression of ideas shouldn't be threatened with fines and jail simply for having a particular point of view about marriage that the government may not favor," said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco following the decision.

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"Public officials can't censor filmmakers or demand that they tell stories in film that violate their deepest convictions." 

Tedesco insisted that people should have the freedom to disagree on critical matters of conscience.

"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," he added.

The Larsens, who have been married for 15 years, say that they use their talents to "magnify Christ like a telescope."

Their Telescope Media company documents marriages and provides other services to Christian organizations, but Minnesota law requires them to also work gay weddings if requested.

ADF explained that the case, Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey, challenges portions of Minnesota Statutes Chapter 363, which states that professionals must promote objectionable messages, even if they disagree with them.

Tunheim said in his ruling that the couple's policy on which marriages they can not film stands against the First Amendment, however.

"Posting language on a website telling potential customers that a business will discriminate based on sexual orientation is part of the act of sexual orientation discrimination itself," the judge wrote. "As conduct carried out through language, this act is not protected by the First Amendment."

The Larsens recently appeared in a panel discussing religious freedom, hosted by The Heritage Foundation, alongside a number of other Christian business owners facing similar cases.

Carl Larsen said at the time that his company wants to capture truth.

"For us as storytellers, we want to tell the truth as we see it through the Bible. From the beginning to the very end," he noted.

Facing possible fines and even jail time, the Larsens have for now suspended their wedding industry.

Others on the panel, such as Blaine Adamson, owner of t-shirt company Hands On Originals in Lexington, Ky., explained why these cases are so important for religious freedom rights in America.

"We all at some point in our lives will find ourselves at crossroads, where we have an issue of conscience, where we know there's something that we need to do. But whether it's out of fear or because it's the easy road, we decide to go against our conscience," Adamson said.

"When we make that choice, we lose something — in my case, what would have been freedom. We can't just kick the can for the next generation."

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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