Minnesota Filmmakers Make Free-Speech Argument in Court
Bonnie PritchettReligious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
- 2017 Jun 02
A Minnesota federal judge on May 26 heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by the owners of a film company who want to tell stories of marriage from an exclusively Biblical perspective. The state’s non-discrimination law requires wedding industry businesses to serve all prospective clients, including same-sex couples, or face stiff fines and even imprisonment.
That law and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights’ active pursuit of violators has kept Carl and Angel Larsen, founders and owners of Telescope Media Group, from expanding their film-making production business to include weddings. Instead of venturing into the wedding industry and awaiting the inevitable business-crushing lawsuit filed by a same-sex couple and their ACLU attorneys, the Larsens went on the offense. They filed Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey seeking relief from the law, which they claim violates their First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion.
Their attorney, Jeremy Tedesco of Alliance Defending Freedom, said Chief Judge John R. Tunheim’s questions to the state’s attorneys clearly indicated he understood the First Amendment implications of the case. The state law gives no exceptions for conscience protections and requires wedding industry businesses to service same-sex marriages or face criminal penalties, punitive damages up to $25,000, triple compensatory damages, and up to 90 days in jail.
Religious liberty attorneys have argued in related cases that compelled speech is unconstitutional whether the speech is spoken, written, or expressed through creative design. But that argument has fallen on deaf ears, much to Tedesco’s frustration.
Minnesota’s state attorneys defended the law by turning a blind eye to the expressive aspect of the Larsens’ films, Tedesco said, and insisted the law can compel citizens to engage in speech even if it violates their consciences. Tedesco warned that’s a dangerous argument because a reversal in political power could change the people whose speech is compelled. Neither scenario is indicative of a free society he said.
Carl Larsen told me he and Angel have received support from the creative community and they are prepared for the long legal haul.
“My identity is in Jesus Christ,” he said. “[I will] stay near to Him and trust Him and work for the good of my community.”
The Larsens told me they have not calculated the unearned revenue from their self-banishment from the wedding industry but said their case is about free speech and their hope is that “everyone can live freely according to their convictions.”
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: June 2, 2017