A team of Minnesota filmmakers is giving notice to a federal court that the censorship of their work must stop.
Lawyers representing Carl and Angel Larsen of Telescope Media Group have filed a notice of appeal to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of a lower court’s decision regarding their challenge to a state law “that allows Minnesota officials to control the stories they tell.”
They are represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, whose lawyers say the law “forces them to use their creative talents to promote same-sex marriages if they produce films that celebrate marriage between one man and one woman.”
The lower court dismissed their complaint, which requested that the enforcement of the law be suspended while their case is decided.
Instead, the court simply dismissed the case, meaning “the Larsens have to continue censoring their own speech about marriage to avoid violating the law.”
“Creative professionals who engage in the expression of ideas shouldn’t be threatened with fines and jail simply for having a particular point of view about marriage that the government may not favor,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “People should have the freedom to disagree on critical matters of conscience, which is why everyone, regardless of their view of marriage, can support the Larsens.
“The same government that can force them to violate their faith and conscience can force any one of us to do the same. That’s why we are appealing the district court’s ruling to the 8th Circuit.”
The case alleges problems with Minnesota Statutes Chapter 363. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights claims the law forces creative professionals like the Larsens to promote objectionable messages – even those that violate their constitutionally protected religious faith.
The filmmakers say they have the right to decide what stories to tell.
It’s a common fight in America these days, where LGBT activists hunt for people in such businesses who are Christian, then create the circumstances that force them to violate their faith or face retribution from the law.
It’s the same issue before the U.S. Supreme Court this fall, in the Colorado case of baker Jack Phillips, who declined to use his artistry to promote a homosexual wedding. A biased commission in Colorado decided to force him and his employees to undergo a state reindoctrination program as punishment.
“Like most people in the expressive professions, we work with all people; we just can’t promote all messages,” Angel Larsen wrote in a FoxNews.com op-ed published Friday. “Two of our sons are adopted from Ethiopia. Our youngest child is half Cameroonian and half Native American. And having eight children means we can’t afford to travel the world, so we bring the world to us. We do this precisely because we believe beauty exists in the diversity of God’s creation. … This has included spending Christmas with an alcoholic Vietnam veteran, a bisexual international student, and yes, even Trump supporters, among many, many others. We love all people. We work with all people. We simply don’t promote all messages.”
The state of Minnesota, however, has dictated that private businesses such as the Larsens’ violate the law if they decline to create expression promoting same-sex weddings. Penalties for violation include payment of a civil penalty to the state; triple compensatory damages; punitive damages of up to $25,000; a criminal penalty of up to $1,000; and even up to 90 days in jail.
When the case arose, WND reported the Larsens’ were having problems with the state law that forbids businesses to treat people differently based upon “race, color, national origin, sex, disability (or) sexual orientation.”
They brought a pre-emptive lawsuit, but federal Judge John Mannheim lashed out at them, saying their efforts to follow their faith and decline requests to video same-sex ceremonies was “akin to a ‘White Applicants Only’ sign.”
ADF Senior counsel Jonathan Scruggs told WND and Radio America that the judge’s rationale is way off base.
“That 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.
“That is a direct assault on the First Amendment,” he added. “We’re hopeful that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the appellate court, will be receptive of our arguments to protect the Larsens’ rights.”
Scruggs said a bedrock American constitutional principle is at stake here.
“All Americans should have the right to choose what messages they promote or the messages they don’t promote,” he said. “It is a great burden on our clients’ freedoms for the state to come in and say, ‘You’ve got to create from scratch a video that promotes and honors a same-sex wedding ceremony.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Jonathan Scruggs: