When the U.S. Supreme Court redefined marriage in 2015, Carl and Angel Larsen were troubled, especially as they saw Christians being punished and marginalized for their belief in how Scripture defines marriage – as a lifelong union between one man and one woman.
The Larsens, married for 14 years, have long had a passion to see marriage flourish and often counsel both married and engaged couples. Carl has even officiated two weddings. But as they witnessed the cultural tides shifting, they felt a tug to do more to help promote and celebrate the biblical definition of marriage.
After much prayer and deliberation, the Larsens, who own the video and film production company Telescope Media Group (TMG), realized that the answer was right before them. They could use their God-given talents and business to tell compelling stories about God’s design for marriage. After all, TMG exists to tell great stories that honor God.
As they prepared to launch into wedding cinematography, however, they ran into an obstacle.
According to State officials, a Minnesota law requires the Larsens to make films celebrating same-sex weddings if they create films celebrating marriage between a man and a woman. And if they decline, the penalties include a civil penalty paid to the state, triple compensatory damages, punitive damages of up to $25,000, and even up to 90 days in jail.
As you can see, the Larsens face a dilemma. Either they must create a government-mandated message – a message that contradicts the very beliefs that fuel their desire to jump into the wedding industry – or they will face an investigation, prosecution, and possible jail time.
The government cannot force creative professionals to promote messages that violate their beliefs.
That’s why ADF is filing a pre-enforcement challenge on Carl and Angel’s behalf. Before the Larsens enter the wedding field and face these severe penalties, they are seeking a court order that says Minnesota cannot threaten them with fines and jail time if they decline to promote a message with which they disagree.
In the meantime, the Larsens are forced to relinquish their free speech rights and have refrained from creating any wedding films at all.
Goodbye, free speech and religious freedom. Hello, compelled speech.
Thankfully, the Larsens have First Amendment protections, which require that creative professionals be treated equally and that their rights be protected, regardless of the popularity of their views.
That’s a concept that shouldn’t come as a surprise, after fashion designer Sophie Theallet was applauded for stating that she will not design clothes for Melania Trump because she does not want to use her artistic talents to promote political views that she disagrees with.
Every American – including creative professionals – should be free to peacefully live and work according to their faith. The public support that Theallet received shows that this idea is something we can all get behind.
After all, compelled speech has no place in a free America.