A Christian couple who owns a media company is suing the state of Minnesota after being threatened with fines and imprisonment if they refuse to make films involving same-sex marriage.
Carl and Angel Larsen, through their company Telescope Media Group, want to enter the wedding industry, but due to their religious beliefs do not want to create films celebrating same-sex marriages.
Minnesota’s Human Rights Act stipulates that if the owners produce films about traditional Christian marriages between one man and one woman, they must also produce films about unions that violate their Christian views, CBN News reported.
The religious liberty law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the Larsens in the suit, said in a Tuesday news release that the couple faces steep fines, including compensatory and punitive damages of up to $25,000, and up to 90 days in prison if they fail to comply with Minnesota’s public accommodation law.
ADF filed suit at the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of Minnesota’s law, arguing it “illegally controls artistic expression — violating the Larsens’ freedom to choose which messages they will express, and refrain from expressing, through their films.”
In 2017, federal district court Judge John Tunheim, a Clinton appointee, dismissed the Larsens’ suit challenging the application of Minnesota’s Human’s Rights Act in their case.
ADF senior counsel Jeremy Tedesco, who represented the couple at the district court, filed Tuesday’s appeal at the 8th Circuit.
“The government shouldn’t threaten filmmakers with fines and jail time to force them to create films that violate their beliefs,” Tedesco said in a news release announcing the suit.
“Carl and Angel are storytellers — they script, stage, conduct interviews, capture footage, select music, edit and more — all to tell compelling stories through film that promote their religious beliefs,” he added.
ADF successfully sued the state of Colorado on behalf of Christian baker Jack Phillips, securing his right to decline to make custom wedding cakes celebrating same-sex marriages.
In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court found Phillips had a legitimate claim “that using his artistic skills to make an expressive statement, a wedding endorsement in his own voice and of his own creation, has a significant First Amendment speech component and implicates his deep and sincere religious beliefs.”
The Court went on to note, “That consideration was compromised, however, by the (Colorado Civil Rights) Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case, which showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection.”
ADF is arguing, like Phillips, the Larsens gladly serve people of all backgrounds, but as creative professionals they decline business which requires them to produce films containing messages they find objectionable.
ADF reported that the 8th Circuit received a friend-of-the-court brief from 10 states supporting the Christian filmmakers’ right to artistic expression earlier this year.
The states joining in the brief include: Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.
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