Too High a Price for Citizenship

Eviscerating Religious Freedom

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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.

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John Stonestreet

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.

If what gay people do is inseparable from who they are, then why should Christians be expected to separate creed from deed? Newsletter_Gen_180x180_BIt’s a blatant double standard.

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.

Further Reading and Information

BP-Takeaction_82913Too 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

Clashing Claims
Ryan T. Anderson | Public Discourse | August 23, 2013


This is not a case of someone refusing to do business with a particular person. Huguenin did not refuse Wilcock as a customer because of her sexual orientation. Rather, she refused to participate in a particular activity to which she conscientiously objected. This is not a question of WHOM business owners may or may not serve, but of WHAT business owners may or may not be compelled to participate in.

Proof yet again that homosexuals' relentless push for same-sex "marriage" is not about equality, rights or marriage.

It's about forcing social acceptance on those who don't agree and now using legal force to punish those who do not bow to their bullying.

We need to stay this constantly, loudly, and in every way we can.
"Race is an immutable characteristic and prejudice is against biblical teaching. Homosexuality is a personal choice, it is not immutable"

OK first of all it's a little simplistic to call it a "choice". Nobody wakes up one day and decides to be gay, I would argue it's far more like a mental illness. Either way however, it's a moot point, because again you've conceded too much ground from the start. Rather than just defend the right of freedom of association, you want to argue "well, this time is different". It's simple, you either have the right to chose who you do business with or you don't. You say it isn't OK to discriminate against "immutable" things, but the liberals argue that homosexuality is immutable so you have to prove it's not. Again you concede to much ground from the start, it's why the liberals inevitably defeat you.

Either you have the right to chose who you do business with or you do not. It's either a right, or it's a privilege based on what the majority deem acceptable. And if it's the latter, don't be surprised when you they make you do business against your will. Freedom is a two way street my friend. The best way to protect your freedom is to protect the freedom of others.

-The Bechtloff
One thing you are forgetting... Race is an immutable characteristic and prejudice is against biblical teaching. Homosexuality is a personal choice, it is not immutable, and is considered a sin. They are not comparable. Only by the fact that a court decided that sexual preference puts one in a special class of people which cannot be discriminated against, is this court decision justified. The discrimination law assumes sexual preference is immutable, and therefore worthy of protection from discrimination. This is a flawed legal determination. People are free to be homosexual, it is their choice and that is consistent with their freedom of association. It is ultimately not their right to force someone else to violate their moral code based on their freedom of association or the flawed discrimination law. The discrimination law is being leveraged to set other precedence which will ultimately create an unresolvable conflict between case law and the U.S. Constitution. If we don't have a sound moral code upon which to base our law, it will deteriorate into chaos. Relativism cannot stand up to scrutiny of integrity in its philosophy, and if our laws are based on it, our legal system will fail.
I am happy that the 4th link was posted. Like Bechtloff I had the question in my mind of if we take the stance of religious freedom trumps then where does that stop? Guy Benson I think does a great job of answering that and making the argument that the compromise was forced to go the wrong direction.
"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.”"

Well, in a way they're kinda right. See, this is the point I make, if you accept the fact that a business owner can't decide who they do and do not want to do business with, you shouldn't be surprised when you get forced to do business with someone you don't want to. If you want to support the right of these people to not serve same sex marriage then you have to also support the right to not serve interracial marriages. Not because the two are morally equivalent, they're not, but because in both cases it's about the right of freedom of association, which is a basic human right.

This is why conservatives always ultimately fail to halt the big government onslaught, you concede to much ground from the start. You either support someone's right to do business with who they wish or you don't, and if you think people can be forced to do business with others against their will, do not be surprised when that is turned on you.

-The Bechtloff