By Diane Robertson
Last week, a judge in Wisconsin announced that the court would rule that a Christian photographer could declare her faith-based intent not to take photos at homosexual weddings and not be prosecuted or chased out of business because she does not have a storefront. Given the current political climate and business freedom, you would think this is good news. But, I wish the news were better.
Amy Lawson, a Christian photographer, who advertises through a website, describes herself as “a Madison portrait and wedding photographer with a passion for telling visual stories that glorify God.”
Originally her website contained a disclaimer saying she would not take photos that promote homosexual marriage, abortion, or racism. One customer who had ordered her services noticed the disclaimer and said she could not work with someone who held Lawson’s beliefs. Lawson gave a full refund to the customer and they departed with good will.
However, Lawson became worried that she would be turned in for violating the Madison County sexual orientation for public accommodations law. She did not want to be forced to use her artistic talents to promote ideas that are in direct contrast to her religious beliefs. Lawson contacted ADF and filed a pre-enforcement lawsuit.
The court, the City of Madison, and the state of Wisconsin all agreed that artists without a storefront, who work from their homes or on location, cannot be forced to create art that goes against their beliefs because the law does not apply to them. The court stated that the law only applies to artists with storefronts.
ADF senior counsel Jonathan Scruggs said, “the court’s announcement has important implications for everyone in Wisconsin who values artistic freedom. It means that government officials must allow creative professionals without storefronts anywhere in the city and state the freedom to make their own decisions about which ideas they will use their artistic expression to promote.”
Why then, when a religious business owner has finally won in court, would this not be the best news? The news could be better because no American should be punished for their religious views or how they act on them. Religion views are enshrined in the Constitution. The right to religion is the very first right established in the Bill of Rights. Religion is, in fact, dually protected under the additional protected rights of speech and the press.
Sexual orientation and gender identity protections have come in direct opposition to 200 years of legal protection of religion and conscience. Many artists throughout the nation have been sued and made to pay absorbent amounts of money.
This clarification for sogi laws in Wisconsin is good in that it compromises. The florists, bakers, and photographers who do not want to support same-sex weddings can then decide to work solely from their homes and on location. They are free to practice their religion and customers who want the services these business owners do not provide will have sure access to storefront businesses.
Compromise is good, but the freedoms that the Constitution established are better.