Christian Filmmakers Challenge Minnesota Law on Basis of Protecting Religious Conscience

Same-sex wedding cake
Owners of Christian wedding film-making company have sued state attorney general for mandating them to film same-sex marriages. |

Christian owners of a wedding filmmaking company have filed a lawsuit against Minnesota commissioner of human rights and attorney general to challenge state laws that compel them to produce videos of same-sex marriages against their religious beliefs.

Carl and Angel Larsen, who started Telescope Media Group in 2008, are being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

"The whole purpose of Telescope, regardless of what project we're doing, is to glorify God and make much of Him in every project that we do," said Carl Larsen.

The Minnesota Human Rights Act mandates them to film homosexual weddings along with the heterosexual ones, which will also involve creating speeches in the films. Failing to comply with the law renders them liable to pay civil penalties, triple compensatory damages of up to $25,000, and up to 90 days in prison.

The couple says that filming and creating speeches celebrating same-sex marriages goes against their religious beliefs and the Biblical message in marriage that they want to express.

At the same time, they don't want to be investigated, prosecuted, and imprisoned for their religious beliefs, which will amount to violation of their First Amendment rights.

"The human rights department has been very aggressive stating on their website and in various other official proclamations that they intend to enforce the law. A law that has criminal penalties as part as what they could face, fines and even jail time as possible penalties," said ADF legal counsel Jeremy Tedesco.

Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey did not seem to have a favorable view of the couple's stance on religious freedom.

"This lawsuit is part of a pattern of nationwide litigation that is now aimed at eroding the rights of LGBTQ Minnesotans," Lindsey said in a statement.

"This could open a real wide door to people citing religion in turning away customers they don't like," said Teresa Nelson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota. "It opens the door to a vast array of discrimination ... if the court sides with the plaintiffs."

ADF said that government is overstepping on rights of religious people by forcing them to express thoughts or ideas against their beliefs.

"This is a right everybody has, not just a right in the realm of marriage," said Tedesco. "We wouldn't want a Democratic speechwriter being made to write speeches for Trump under force of law or an atheist singer forced to sing Christian hymns at a church. These are choices creative professionals can make. The worry is if the government can take it away from people like the Larsens, what's to stop it from taking away from everyone else?"

If the court rules in favor of the company, the couple will be able to publish a website disclaimer to inform viewers that Telescope cannot film same-sex marriages in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The Larsens are not taking up wedding filming projects until the court pronounces the verdict.