Minnesota’s Ellison re-launches attack on religious freedom – By WND Staff (WND) / Oct 6 2019
State accused of ‘using its power to banish people of faith from the public square’
Minnesota’s attorney general, the former congressman Keith Ellison, is re-launching a case against the owners of a video company whose religious right to refuse to made videos for a same-sex wedding already has been upheld by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The fight is over the state’s so-called nondiscrimination plan, which the appeals court found violates the First Amendment.
The ruling reinstated the lawsuit by Carl and Angel Larsen of Telescope Media Group.
The Larsens preemptively sued the state over the “non-discrimination” requirement because their Christian beliefs conflict with same-sex marriage.
The 8th Circuit said: “Carl and Angel Larsen wish to make wedding videos. Can Minnesota require them to produce videos of same-sex weddings, even if the message would conflict with their own beliefs? The district court concluded that it could and dismissed the Larsens’ constitutional challenge to Minnesota’s antidiscrimination law. Because the First Amendment allows the Larsens to choose when to speak and what to say, we reverse the dismissal of two of their claims and remand with instructions to consider whether they are entitled to a preliminary injunction.”
Ellison released a statement charging the Larsens wants “to discriminate against same-sex couples.” He declared he would “keep honoring the First Amendment, which allows everyone to believe what they want no matter how much we may disagree with them.”
The Larsens cited the Constitution’s protections of speech, exercise of religion, equal protection and due process in their case challenging the validity of the state’s demand that they promote same-sex weddings.
Jeremy Tedesco is counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the couple.
“Carl and Angel won a great free speech victory at the 8th Circuit, which rightly affirmed that the government has no power to force people to express messages that violate their deepest convictions,” he said.
“This principle protects everyone. It means the state can’t threaten the Larsens with jail time for declining to create a film promoting a view of marriage that violates their religious beliefs. It also prevents the government from forcing an atheist musician to perform at an evangelical church service or a Democratic speech writer to write speeches for a Republican.
“After the Larsens won at the 8th Circuit, the Minnesota attorney general agreed to an order from the court preventing it from enforcing the law against the Larsens while the case proceeds. Carl and Angel are pleased that they will soon be able to enter the marriage industry and produce films that are consistent with their beliefs. We look forward to securing a final victory that prevents the state from using its power to banish people of faith from the public square.”
Minnesota’s action against the couple is what many Christians predicted would happen when the Supreme Court created same-sex marriage in a decision that the chief justice described as unrelated to the Constitution.
Similar cases have emerged over wedding cakes, photography, flowers and venues.
The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips that the state showed hostility toward his religion in its prosecution of his refusal to make a wedding cape for a same-sex couple.
The appeals court noted the law’s inherent flaws.
“Indeed, if Minnesota were correct, there is no reason it would have to stop with the Larsens. In theory, it could use the MHRA to require a Muslim tattoo artist to inscribe ‘My religion is the only true religion’ on the body of a Christian if he or she would do the same for a fellow Muslim, or it could demand that an atheist musician perform at an evangelical church service. In fact, if Minnesota were to do what other jurisdictions have done and declare political affiliation or ideology to be a protected characteristic, then it could force a Democratic speechwriter to provide the same services to a Republican, or it could require a professional entertainer to perform at rallies for both the Republican and Democratic candidates for the same office.”
A district judge, John Mannheim, dismissed the Larsens’ claim charging their faith standards were like a “White Applicants Only” sign.
ADF Senior counsel Jonathan Scruggs said the comparison is “entirely false.”
“The Larsens do not discriminate based on of any status,” Scruggs explained. “They are willing to serve all people, including people of all different sexual orientations. They just can’t promote messages they disagree with and events they disagree with. That’s a common-sense distinction.”
He said the judge’s disturbing language did not stop there.
“The court acknowledged that this law was raising First Amendment concerns yet said that was only an ‘incidental burden’ on the Larsens’ First Amendment rights, when they are compelled to create and promote videos of a same-sex wedding ceremony,” Scruggs said.