FAITH FILE: Speech Police Will Jail Minnesota Couple If They Won’t Back Gay Marriage

Photo courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom.

Mark Tapscott Executive Editor, Chief of Investigative Group
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Mention censorship and visions of busybodies demanding that “bad” books be removed from libraries or cops refusing protesters demonstration permits come to mind. But what about when government officials order artists to create art supporting a cause that violates their most deeply held beliefs?

That’s the situation facing Minnesotans Carl and Angel Larsen, parents of eight children, including two adopted from Ethiopia. They are founders and proprietors of Telescope Media Group, which creates digital video stories for clients with private events like conferences, concerts and meetings.

“Live events are an integral part of our business, we don’t just make the commercials to get people to come to your event, we do live presentation, video capture, directing, and web streaming,” according to the Telescope Media Group web site. They create expressive stories about the events they cover.

Right up front on their site, the Larsens make crystal clear the fundamental purpose underlying their business: “Telescope Media Group exists to glorify God through top-quality media production.”

They hope to add weddings to the events they produce. But the Minnesota Department of Human Rights claims the Larsens must produce same-sex marriage ceremonies or they can be fined thousands of dollars, made to pay triple damages and be sent to jail.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the Larsens filed a notice Friday of their intent to appeal the Oct. 18, 2017,  U.S. District Court dismissal of their suit seeking to bar state bureaucrats from forcing them to create artistic media expression supporting same-sex marriage.

“The Larsens allege that they will ‘gladly work with all people’ regardless of sexual orientation or religious belief, but they decline requests for their creative services unless ‘they can use their story-telling talents and editorial control to convey only messages they are comfortable conveying given their religious beliefs…,’ according to the court’s 63-page decision.

They want to cover weddings for “the purpose of ‘counteract[ing] the current powerful cultural narrative undermining the historic, biblically-orthodox definition of marriage as between one man and one woman’ and expressing their opposition to same-sex marriage,” the court continued.

“They plan to publicly promote their wedding videos to a broad audience on their website and on ‘other internet mediums, like Twitter and Facebook,’ in order ‘to achieve maximum cultural impact’ and to ‘affect the cultural narrative regarding marriage,’” the court said.

The court accepted the state’s motion to dismiss the Larsen’s suit, which essentially claimed the couple lacked standing since no enforcement action had been taken against them. That means at least for now the Larsens must either censor themselves or provide creative expression and services for activities that violate their deeply held religious beliefs.

“Tolerance is a two-way street. Creative professionals who engage in the expression of ideas shouldn’t be threatened with fines and jail simply for having a particular point of view about marriage that the government may not favor,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Public officials can’t censor filmmakers or demand that they tell stories in film that violate their deepest convictions.

“People should have the freedom to disagree on critical matters of conscience, which is why everyone, regardless of their view of marriage, can support the Larsens. The same government that can force them to violate their faith and conscience can force any one of us to do the same. That’s why we plan to appeal this ruling to the 8th Circuit.”

The Telescope Media Group case could ultimately lead the U.S. Supreme Court to decide once and for all if people who oppose same-sex marriage have the same First Amendment constitutional freedoms of religious practice, creative expression and association as those who favor same-sex marriage.

To grasp what’s at stake here, what if federal or state bureaucrats could force pro-abortion political advertising firms to only make pro-life TV spots? Or the NRA to lobby Congress for a law outlawing private gun ownership? Or environmental think tanks to only publish studies supporting unregulated oil and gas drilling anywhere?

Think none of those scenarios could ever “happen here?” Donald Trump could never be elected president, right? Congress would never, ever spend billions of tax dollars to bail out Wall Street’s biggest investment firms, would they?

And nobody in their right mind would ever purposely ram a Boeing 757 commercial airliner filled with innocent men, women and children into the World Trade Center, either …

Wake up, people! When one opinion can be silenced, any can.

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and chief of its Investigative Group. Follow Mark on Twitter.

Views expressed in op-eds are not the views of The Daily Caller.