Creative professionals in Madison, Wisconsin — take note.
A law in your city makes it illegal for you to turn down requests that are inconsistent with your deeply held beliefs or 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.”
This law not only affects Christians like Amy Lawson, a photographer and blogger whose lawsuit was filed earlier this week by Alliance Defending Freedom, but it should concern creative professionals of all religious and political beliefs.
- Under this law, Madison officials could tell these political cartoonists that they must create cartoons supporting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Given their current portfolio, I don’t think they would like that very much.
- This speaker and writer who supports LGBT issues could be forced to give a speech defending a biblical understanding of marriage.
- The government could tell this photographer, who currently takes pictures supporting abortion clinics, that she must take photos promoting the March for Life. Or that she must take photos and write blogs that portray sidewalk counselors in a positive light.
And then of course, there is our client Amy Lawson, owner of Amy Lynn Photography Studio. Amy specifically wants to use her talents in photography and blogging to promote the beauty of marriage as a union of one man and one woman as well as the sanctity of life – a desire motivated by her religious beliefs. But if someone were to request that Amy take photos of and write about a same-sex wedding or a Planned Parenthood rally, for instance, the law makes it illegal for Amy to decline those projects.
Is this fair?
There are, after all, a number of photographers in the Madison area that photograph same-sex weddings, celebrating the couples on their blog, and criticizing laws that defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman. If these photographers have the freedom to promote and celebrate their definition of marriage through their photography and through their websites, then why shouldn’t Amy have the same freedom?
As a Christian, Amy’s religious beliefs guide everything she does. She simply cannot agree to use her artistic talents and her speech — speech she posts on her own website — to promote an event or message that violates her faith.
That’s why she filed a lawsuit challenging a Madison law that limits the freedom of creative professionals to run their business and use their creative talents consistently with their religious and political beliefs.
Amy is not the first Christian creative professional to face such a law. We also represent a custom art studio in Phoenix, a graphic and web design company in Colorado, and filmmakers in Minnesota who are challenging similar laws. And we’ve all seen what happens when these types of laws are used against Christian artists who are simply trying to peacefully live and work consistently with their faith. A prime example is the Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman, whose case we are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But the Madison law is even more egregious. It takes these types of laws a step further.
Madison creative professionals should recognize that when Amy is taking a stand against a law that could be used to stifle her artistic freedom, she is taking a stand for all of them. After all, if the government has the power to tell you what to think, what to believe, what to promote, and what to create, then true freedom does not exist.
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