Would you give up the freedom to live out your faith in exchange for your U.S. citizenship? A New Mexico judge thinks that’s a fair enough deal. Stay tuned to BreakPoint.
Seven years ago, Vanessa Wilcock asked Elane Photography in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to photograph the commitment ceremony between her and her same-sex partner.
Elaine Huguenin declined on the grounds that she only photographed traditional, not same-sex weddings. That refusal set in motion a legal battle with serious implications for religious freedom.
Wilcock, despite finding another, cheaper photographer, filed a complaint with the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission, which ruled that Huguenin had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law. That rule was upheld by an appeals court.
Then last week, the New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously upheld the appeals court’s ruling.
But even more troubling than the court’s ruling against Huguenin is the reasoning it employed to justify its decision. Every appeal to religious freedom was swept aside as if the phrase “free exercise” did not appear anywhere in the Constitution. In “vindicating” the right of one minority – same-sex couples – the court rendered null the rights of another, namely people of faith who adhere to traditional teachings about sexuality.
According to the court, Elane Photography’s refusal “violated the [law] in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races.” Thus, it completely overlooked the fact, as Rod Dreher has put it, that “there is a moral dimension to sexual desire and expression” that does not exist when it comes to race or ethnicity.
The court was also uninterested in the distinction Elane Photography appealed to between objecting to a particular action and objecting to a person. The issue was not photographing someone with same-sex attraction, which Elane was willing to do. But they were not willing to endorse a same-sex union by photographing a commitment ceremony.
And still even more troubling was the concurring opinion of justice Richard Bosson. He acknowledged that, under New Mexico law, the Huguenins are “compelled . . . to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.” He admitted that this compulsion will “leave a tangible mark on the Huguenins and others of similar views.”
Nevertheless, this compromise is, according to Bosson, “the price of citizenship.” While the Huguenins are free to believe whatever they want, outside of their home they “have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different.”
Bosson called this compromise “part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.”
There are two huge problems with this reasoning. The first is this artificial distinction between belief and conduct. It’s a distinction that is especially ironic coming from a court that wouldn’t countenance a distinction between objecting to a particular sexual orientation and objecting to specific sexual acts.
Equally blatant is the unspoken assumption that the only people doing the compromising are people of faith. When Huguenin turned down Wilcock’s request, Wilcock, as her contribution to the “glue,” could have said “Well, I’ve found another photographer,” and left it at that. But she didn’t, and no one is lecturing her about the “price of citizenship.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom has promised to appeal the decision to the U. S. Supreme Court, and they should. The precedent it sets eviscerates religious freedom. And if that’s the “price of citizenship,” that's a price far too high.
For more commentary on this truly troubling case and its implications for religious freedom, come to BreakPoint.org, and click on this commentary.
Too High a Price for Citizenship: Eviscerating Religious Freedom - Next Steps
Who would have thought that an American judge would ever say, in essence, that sacrificing the right to live out your faith is the price of citizenship?
But these are the days we live in, and why we need to do all we can to defend religious freedom. Start by visiting the Alliance Defending Freedom website for the latest on this case.
And we have a “Two Minute Warning” video Chuck Colson aired some time back on the important difference between “freedom of worship” and true “freedom of religion.” Chuck was prophetic.
Court Tells Christians: There’s a Price for Your Beliefs
Alliance Defending Freedom, August 2013
N.M. Supreme Court: Photographers Can’t Refuse Gay Weddings
Ted Olsen | Christianity Today | August 22, 2013
All-Purpose Gay Marriage Post
Rod Dreher | The American Conservative | August 26, 2013
NM Supreme Court: Christian Photographer Had no Right to Decline Job at Same-Sex Ceremony
Guy Benson | TownHall.com | August 23, 2013
The Dark Side of the Gay Rights Movement
Richard Epstein | ricochet.com | August 23, 2013
Freedom of Worship
Chuck Colson | ColsonCenter.org | June 30, 2010
Ryan T. Anderson | Public Discourse | August 23, 2013