Most Americans Say Christian Photographer Has Right to Deny Gay Wedding Request

A vast majority of Americans say that a Christian photographer should be able to deny a same-sex couple's wedding request, internet polling company Rasmussen Reports has found.

Eighty-five percent of adults said "yes" to the question, "Suppose a Christian wedding photographer has deeply held religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage. If asked to work a same-sex wedding ceremony, should that wedding photographer have the right to say no?" Only 8 percent said "no," and 6 percent sat on the fence. The survey of 1,000 adults was conducted July 7-8, 2013.

More Republicans (96 percent) than Democrats (77 percent) agreed with the photographer's right to deny a gay wedding request. Ninety-seven percent of evangelical Christians and 92 percent of weekly churchgoers said the same. But even 88 percent of atheists agreed that the photographer has the right to say no.

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This comes four months after the latest development in the famous Willock v. Elane Photography case, where Vanessa Willock and her partner, Misti Collinsworth, sued Christian couple Elaine and Jon Huguenin for this very denial in 2006. In 2008, the New Mexico Human Rights Commission found the Huguenins guilty of sexual discrimination, and the New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld this ruling last May.

The Alliance Defense Fund, which defended the Huguenins and their company, Elane Photography LLC, has taken their case to the New Mexico Supreme Court. The court heard ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence's oral arguments on March 11. On Wednesday, an ADF spokesman told CP that "ADF attorneys are still waiting for the decision from the New Mexico Supreme Court."

Notably, Rasmussen Reports also found that most Americans believe an atheist restaurant owner should not have the right to refuse customers who wear "Jesus Saves" t-shirts. Fifty-four percent said "no" in response to the question, "Suppose an atheist runs a restaurant and sincerely opposes Christian beliefs. Should that restaurant owner have the right to refuse service to customers with 'Jesus Saves' t-shirts?"

Only 35 percent said a restaurant owner who sincerely opposes Christian beliefs should be able to refuse service. More atheists (54 percent) than evangelical Christians (49 percent) oppose the owner's right to deny service.

"In all things, in almost every poll that we do, people do have a profound respect for religious rights – they don't believe people should be forced to act against their beliefs," Founder and CEO Scott Rasmussen told The Christian Post in a Wednesday interview.

On the issue of gay marriage, which became legal in the United Kingdom Wednesday, he noted that "3 out of 4 Americans" believe that "gay couples should have all the same legal rights as traditional couples," but that same 3/4th majority also believe "people should not be forced to take part in ceremonies that violate their religious sensitivities."

Despite the sincere and heated opinions on each side of this debate, Rasmussen expressed confidence that public opinion will find a way to work it out. So long as gay and lesbian couples have the same rights and religious liberties are protected, the government can step back and "let society solve the problem."

"I think it's important to recognize that this poll was a very specific question about asking somebody to take part in a particular ceremony; it was not a broader question about attitudes towards gay Americans," Rasmussen clarified about the photographer polling.

He also speculated that if the polling company had asked whether an atheist photographer should be able to refuse to work at a Christian wedding, Americans would have given a very similar answer. "There is a balancing of how far an individual has to go to accommodate customers," he concluded.

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