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If This Photographer Can’t Use Her Words and Photos to Promote Her Beliefs, Is Free Speech Really Free?

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
October 17, 2017

In Madison, Wisconsin, it can be easy to stand out if you are moving against the culture.

And that’s exactly what photographer Amy Lawson wants to do.

In 2015, Amy formally started her own business, Amy Lynn Photography Studio, which specializes in portrait, event, and organizational photography and in posting about that photography on the studio’s blog and social media sites. In this way, Amy can use her photographs and blog posts to showcase her clients, celebrate the beauty in their moments, and share the details that make each session unique.

As she witnessed culture shift on the issues of marriage and the sanctity of life, especially among those in her generation, Amy felt called to visually communicate the beauty of marriage between one man and one woman, as well as the sanctity of life, through her business.

As a Christian, Amy believes both the institution of marriage and the sanctity of life are sacred, and she wants to use her artistic skills to change minds and influence culture on these issues.

There’s just one problem.

A Madison law makes it illegal for Amy to express beliefs that convey someone is “unwelcome” based on their sexual orientation or political beliefs — an incredibly vague standard that allows the city officials to punish speech simply because someone finds it “offensive.” The law also makes it illegal for Amy to decline to take on projects based on disagreement with the political beliefs expressed in a requested project.

That means if she were to take pictures and write blog posts celebrating events and organizations that are in line with her faith, the law says she must do the same for events and organizations that conflict with her faith. Under the law, she could be forced to take photos and write blogs celebrating same-sex weddings as well as Planned Parenthood rallies or other pro-abortion events and organizations.

What happened to free speech?

For a Christian who is guided by what she believes in every aspect of her life, this is unthinkable. Amy faces severe financial penalties for violating the law. And if that’s not bad enough, these laws even prohibit her from explaining her beliefs on her own website!

Madison’s law is incredibly far-reaching. Under the law, Democratic speechwriters could be forced to write speeches for Republican Governor Scott Walker. Or an African-American photographer could be forced to take photos for a Ku Klux Klan rally.

That should concern all of us – of every political stripe. It certainly concerned Amy, who had to cease taking wedding and organizational photography.

But she does not want to remain silent. She decided to challenge the law, and Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on her behalf today.


Creative Professionals Must Be Allowed to Control Their Own Speech without Government Punishment

Stay up-to-date on the latest in this case and our other cases defending the right of people to freely live out their faith, without the threat of government punishment.

Unfortunately, Amy’s case is not an isolated incident. We are defending a painter and calligrapher, a graphic artist, and videographers against similar laws that prevent them from living, working, and creating consistently with their faith. To view their stories and to download a FREE copy of our resource for creative professionals, visit CreateFreely.org.


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Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.


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