A federal appeals court in Minnesota last Friday ruled a Christian couple who are filmmakers may take their First Amendment case to court.
Carl and Angel Larsen, owners of Telescope Media Group in St. Cloud, want to make custom videos for wedding ceremonies reflecting their religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. Minnesota officials told them if they entered the wedding service industry, public accommodation laws would require them to create videos for same-sex couples, too. Penalties could include a civil fine to the state, triple compensatory damages, punitive damages, and even possible criminal conviction and jail time.
A lower court had dismissed the Larsens’ case. But in a 2-1 opinion written by U.S. Circuit Judge David Stras, a President Donald Trump appointee, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled “the First Amendment allows the Larsens to choose when to speak and what to say.” The judges sent the case back to the lower court to consider blocking the state from enforcing the law against the couple.
“Carl and Angel work with all people; they just don’t create films that violate their beliefs,” said Jeremy Tedesco, the Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer who argued the Larsens’ case. “All creative professionals should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment.”
In a dissenting opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Jane Kelly said the ruling was a “major step backward” in “this country’s long and difficult journey to combat all forms of discrimination.” Tedesco told me the dissent’s logic “would require the atheist graphic artist to design a billboard that promotes belief in God.” —S.W.