Supreme Court Declines to Hear Christian Photographer’s Case

The Huguenins, owners of Elane Photography

The Huguenins, owners of Elane Photography

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review the case of Christian photographer Elaine Huguenin who was sued for refusing to photograph the commitment ceremony of two lesbians.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the legal organization who represented Huguenin, said the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case lets stand a lower court ruling that called requests to use talents to communicate messages with which one disagrees to be the “price of citizenship.”

Huguenin’s story begins in 2006 when the New Mexico photographer received an email from a lesbian named Vanessa Willock asking if she would photograph a “commitment ceremony” between herself and her same-sex partner. Huguenin declined, stating that doing so would be at odds with her beliefs.

Huguenin was also known to decline her services to other events that violated her belief system, including nude photography sessions.

Even though Willock and her partner were able to find a lower-priced photographer to shoot their ceremony, they filed a complained against Huguenin with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.  The legal battle that ensued became one of the first cases to pit the rights of homosexuals against the First Amendment rights of business owners. The New Mexico Supreme Court ultimately ruled against Huguenin, forcing her to pay more the $6,000 in lawyer’s fees to Willock. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case means that this is now the law of the land – in New Mexico.

“This new authoritarianism – forcing people to bow the knee to a new orthodoxy or they be punished – is very chilling,” said ADF attorney Jordan Lorence to Fox News.

“When people say things like gay rights trump religious rights, what they are saying is the government can force people to believe a certain way – and that is something that in a free society should not be tolerated. We are now going to see more situations where people are going to be forced to choose between what they believe about marriage – and their job or their business,” Lorence said.

ADF logoLorence was referring to the recent resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendon Eich who was driven out of his office by same-sex marriage supporters who were angry about a contribution he made six years ago in support of California’s Proposition 8 which supported traditional marriage.

“What concerns me is there will be an effort to expand these types of hunting down people with wrong opinions. I don’t know how far this can go,” Lorence said.

Fox News’ Todd Starnes believes it can much further than most of us want to imagine.

“I believe militant gay rights groups will start targeting churches that own fellowship halls. I believe they will start targeting pastors who preach against homosexuality. And I believe they will go after individuals who attend those kinds of churches. . . . It’s not out of the realm of possibility that one day Americans could be forced to answer this question: Do you know or have you ever been a member of a church that opposes gay marriage? The religious cleansing of America has begun.”

Legal organizations such as the ADF say the fight is far from over because the central concern in the Elane Photography case – the punishment of Americans for declining to create or promote messages with which they disagree—is alive in other ADF cases that are currently moving forward around the country.

“Only unjust laws separate what people say from what they believe,” Lorence said. “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.”

These cases include that of Baronelle Stutzman, a Washington state florist who was sued by a long-time friend because she refused to do the flowers for his same-sex ceremony.  Jack Phillips, a Colorado cake artist is also fighting for his First Amendment rights after two men filed a complaint against him for not providing his services for their same-sex ceremony. Blaine Adamson, managing owner of Hands On Originals, a Kentucky T-shirt printer, was sued by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization for refusing to print t-shirts that promoted a “pride festival.”

In all of the above cases, the homosexual parties involved were easily able to secure other services.

These are the kinds of cases that do not sit well with the American public who are overwhelmingly against forcing business owners to provide services in these cases. In fact, a July, 2013 Rasmussen poll found that as many as 85 percent of American believe that a Christian photographer has the right to say no to a same-sex ceremony if it violates the photographer’s religious beliefs.

“Americans oppose unjust laws that strong-arm citizens to express ideas against their will,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “Elaine and numerous others like her around the country have been more than willing to serve any and all customers, but they are not willing to promote any and all messages. A government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government every American should fear.”

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