Should a business owner who happens to be a practicing Muslim be forced to take pictures of a Christian wedding, or does their religious freedom protect them from doing this? The answer that most Americans will give to this question is probably “no, Muslim business owners should not be forced to take pictures of a Christian wedding.” Instinctually, most Americans seem to believe that the freedom of religion provides such protections.
Yet, when the tables are turned, and the question is asked in a somewhat different way, things become a bit murky. Should a business owner who happens to be a practicing Christian be forced to take pictures of a gay wedding? For many Americans, the answer to this question becomes a bit more controversial.
LifeSite reports that a Wisconsin Circuit Court announced on Tuesday that a Christian photographer can declare a faith-based intent not to take pictures at a gay wedding. Evangelical Christian Amy Lawson, a wedding photographer, once advertised publicly that she would not take photos that promote gay marriage, abortion, or racism.
In response to her public announcement, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a pre-enforcement lawsuit on behalf of Lawson, which requested that the government “protect the constitutional right of a commissioned photographer to control what she photographs, what she writes about, and what she posts on the internet.”
In filing this pre-enforcement lawsuit on behalf of Lawson, the ADF was challenging a Madison “sexual orientation” for “public accommodation” law, which said that persons can be sued for declining potential customers because they are part of a gay marriage.
At a hearing on Tuesday, the Dane County Circuit Court announced that it will declare that Lawson and her business are not subject to city and state sexual orientation laws because she does not have a physical store front. In other words, because Lawson does not have her business premised in a public building, she is allowed to control what she photographs, what she writes about, and what she posts on the internet.
“The Court found – and the city and state have now agreed – that such professionals cannot be punished under public accommodation laws for exercising their artistic freedom because those laws simply don’t apply to them,” remarked the ADF senior counsel according to LifeSite News. “No one should be threatened with punishment for having views that the government doesn’t favor.”
According to the ADF, “Since 2006, Madison has investigated at least 11 alleged violations involving sexual orientation or political beliefs, and Wisconsin officials have investigated at least nine businesses accused of not complying with their respective laws based on sexual orientation Violators of Madison’s law are subject to fines of up to $500 per day as well as liability for civil damages. Those who violate the state law are subject to severe fines of up to $10,000 and business license suspension or revocation, as well as civil damages and punitive damages.”
Although the Wisconsin Circuit Court did not deem that any Christian under any circumstance can conduct business according to their religious convictions, their decision was still a significant move in the right direction for Christians.