Can business owners that offer services refuse special services to people who are doing an activity that goes against their beliefs and conscience?
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s highest court has ruled that a commercial photography business violated a state anti-discrimination law by refusing to take pictures of a gay couple’s commitment ceremony.
Elaine Huguenin, co-owner of Elane Photography in Albuquerque, opposes same-sex marriage and had refused to photograph the 2006 event because of her religious beliefs.
The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday the business’s refusal to photograph the ceremony between two women violated New Mexico’s Human Rights Act “in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races.”
The court rejected arguments that the state law violated the photographer’s right to free speech.
The justices said a business could declare in its advertising that it opposes same-sex marriage but it has to comply with the anti-discrimination law.
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Thursday’s New Mexico Supreme Court Decision involves two couples who had conflicting beliefs. One couple chose an alternative lifestyle and requested the services of a Christian couple who run a photography business. The photographer declined to help because of their religious beliefs which are against same-sex marriage. They believed that that aiding the ceremony was wrong.
This case isn’t necessarily about refusing to work for the Lesbian couple, it was refusing to condone the commitment ceremony. It was saying “we don’t do same-sex ceremonies.”
Throughout our nation we see other Christians have been singled out by gays and lesbians for refusing to condone their ceremonies. Christian bakers have been attacked for refusing to make cakes for gay weddings in Colorado and Oregon, while a florist in Washington state who had a history of serving and employing self-identified homosexuals refused to provide florist services for a gay wedding. What is wrong with these people simply saying that it violates their beliefs?
The picture that can be seen here repeatedly is not discrimination against the people involved in the ceremony, but a refusal to condone the ceremony and aid it’s process. It is not a dislike for the people, or discrimination, but a stand against a ceremony one believes is wrong. Why should someone be forced to participate in a ceremony when it is contrary to their beliefs?
“The Huguenins today can no more turn away customers on the basis of their sexual orientation – photographing a same-sex marriage ceremony – than they could refuse to photograph African-Americans or Muslims,” Justice Richard Bosson wrote in the court’s unanimous decision.
Bosson said the Christian photographers are now “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.”
“Though the rule of law requires it, the result is sobering,” he wrote. “It will no doubt leave a tangible mark on the Huguenins and others of similar views.”
A recent Rasmussen survey found that 85 percent of Americans support the right of a photographer to refuse participating in a same-sex wedding.
Bosson said the case provokes reflection on what the nation is about.
“At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others,” he wrote.
He said the Constitution protects the rights of the Christian photographers to pray to the God of their choice and following religious teachings, but offered a sobering warning.
“But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life,” the justice wrote. “The Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.”
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Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal firm specializing in religious liberty cases, representing the photographers. Attorney Jordan Lorence said the ruling in effect means gay rights now trump religious rights.
“Government-coerced expression is a feature of dictatorships that has no place in a free country,” Lorence said. “This decision is a blow to our client and every American’s right to live free.”
Lorence said the New Mexico Supreme Court undermined the constitutionally protected freedoms of expression and conscience.
“If Elane Photographer does not have her rights of conscience protected, then basically nobody does,” he told Fox News. “What you have here is the government punishing someone who says, ‘I, in good conscience, cannot communicate the messages of this wedding.’”
Another thing to consider is how our nation was founded, why it was founded and why the first amendment (which among other things protects religious freedom), was included in the first amendment. Most will agree that many early immigrants to America came here to escape religious oppression and persecution in other countries; the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony certainly came here for such a reason. They wanted to live as they believed God wanted them to while following their consciences.
“Tolerance” must not be misinterpreted to mean that one will condone the actions of someone he or she disagrees with and aid them in an activity that violates their conscience. And isn’t tolerance a two-way street? In the case of the New Mexico photographer, the lesbian couple could have taken the path of tolerance and understood that while the photographer did not want to discriminate against them personally she could not with a clear conscience help give her services at their ceremony.
These are the issues that should be considered as we consider the recent NM Supreme Court decision. In the name of “tolerance” the left says that Christians who can tolerate homosexuals and ( in the case of the florist mentioned above) even hire them must support and aid their every action. Tolerance does not mean one must compromise his or her beliefs and leave them behind to be trampled on. Tolerance means I will live in peace and not harm others who do not believe as I do and respect them.
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