Life is beautiful and imperfect, a source of wonder and a challenge so complex that it’s good to pause from time to time and check our perspective and priorities against eternal truth. Jim Daly’s blog, Daly Focus, is full of daily insight and wisdom that promises to help you navigate today’s culture.
Last week, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that a husband and wife who own a photography business illegally discriminated against a homosexual couple for refusing to shoot their same-sex “commitment ceremony.”
Back in 2006, Elaine and Jon Huguenin, co-owners of Elane Photography in Albuquerque, politely declined to accept the job, citing their Christian faith. The homosexual couple filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. A one-day trial ensued, and in 2008 the commission issued a report claiming the Huguenins had committed “sexual orientation discrimination.” They were ordered to pay nearly $7,000 in fines. Our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom took up their case and appealed it in court, resulting in the most recent decision. ADF has pledged to appeal last week’s ruling.
In recent years, many of us have grown accustomed to court rulings that contradict our faith, but this one has seemed to strike a particularly sensitive and frustrating chord.
By ruling that the couple in this case was guilty of “sexual orientation discrimination,” the New Mexico Supreme Court is asking Christians to violate their deepest-held convictions. New Mexico doesn’t even have same-sex marriage, so the court ruled that this young couple should have recognized and been forced to participate in something the state’s own laws don’t even recognize.
This case is the writing on the wall for what will happen should current trends continue. As my colleague and marriage expert Glenn Stanton observed recently about this troubling violation of religious liberties, “I don’t think even the most imaginative of us can fathom today how over-the-top it’s going to get, and sooner than we might think.”
However, if you only watch the evening news, you probably weren’t aware of this very real threat to religious freedom.
That’s because the reporters themselves don’t know that when homosexual “rights” and religious liberty are at an impasse, it’s people of faith who often end up losing out.
Last year I met with various national-level secular reporters during a trip to New York. In one instance, we talked about same-sex marriage, and I referred to this threat to religious liberty. My comment was met with incredulousness.
“How are your religious liberties threatened by gay marriage?” they asked me.
No wonder the mainstream media isn’t covering this. And let me make this clear – I’m not even suggesting this is a cover-up. They simply don’t know. Even venerated journalists like CBS’ Bob Schieffer are in the dark about what’s going on.
That’s why groups like CitizenLink, Focus’ public policy affiliate, are so important. CitizenLink regularly reports on what’s going on in the areas of law, government and education – and how what’s going on directly impacts your family. CitizenLink also helps concerned citizens make their voices heard by distilling the often-confusing maze of civic involvement into easy-to-do steps through its “get involved” section.
Another group worth following is the aforementioned Alliance Defending Freedom, the Christian legal group representing the New Mexico photographers.
Please join me in praying for the Huguenin family, and for all those pouring themselves into this effort to defend our basic right to live in accord with our conscience and the Scriptures.
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-- Jim, how would you feel if you really wanted to buy something, but the proprietor refused to sell it to you because they claimed that you are a sinner? (Which you are, and so am I - we all are.)
Well that is what happened in this case. The court upheld something that is very important to every person in this country - the right to "public accommodation." In simple terms, that means if you are a business that advertises goods and services to the general public according to a price list, you can not refuse to do business with a member of the public who wants to buy at the stated price.
I am a Christian. I own my own business. But I don't make other people's sin my business. If I did, well, then I would be judging others, and that there is a sin. If the couple in this case do not want sinners as customers, due to their religious beliefs, then they should get out of the business and find a job where they do not have to interact with sinners. It's a free country - nothing is stopping them.
-- There were a couple of replies to this post (including my own!) that have magically disappeared for some reason. To reiterate what I originally posted:
I'd like some more information about how this (very nice, I'm sure) photographer screens potential clients in regards to the "sanctity of marriage". Are they required to produce documentation that both partners have not fornicated and/or cohabited, or do they just fill out some sort of questionnaire and she takes their word for it? What about marriage of divorced people...does she only photograph couples getting remarried if they can prove their divorces were for biblical reason? Interracial marriages, yea or nay? Does she require pastoral counseling for a client at an approved evangelical church before she accepts a job? Does she have veto power over the necklines and hemlines of the bridal and bridesmaids' gowns? Where exactly does she feel her conscience requires her to draw the line when it comes to accepting a job?
-- My feeling exactly, but I couldn't put it into words like yours. Also what about all the other types of sin that can go on during the wedding? Does she screen for that?
Some weddings and their receptions are prideful displays of ostentatious wealth and power. They often feature drunkenness, gluttony, and as the night wears on lascivious behavior. Does the photographer screen her potential customers to make sure that none of this will go on?
What about the vanities and sin that can accompany a conservative evangelical wedding and reception? I recall one weeding that appeared full of overweening spiritual pride and spiritual self-admiration from beginning to end - the boastfulness on the couple's part, as well as the pastor's was almost beyond imagination. Does she make sure that such sins of the heart are not going to be a problem?
--Please don't hate me for a third message. This one is meant to encourage people like the photographers who want to practice their faith in what they do for a living. It is possible. The photographer in this case could set up a ministry to promote the sanctity of marriage through photography.
It is rather straight forward to do. As an example, my best friend from college and his wife opened a bed & breakfast. They did not want to cater to unmarried couples or gays. So instead of operating as a business, they operate as a ministry. They run their B&B as a retreat to help people in full-time Christian ministry "recharge" their batteries. So somebody like Jim Daley could stay there, but I can't.
They are set up as a religious non-profit organization and have received the appropriate approvals from the IRS and other local licencing bodies. Sure, they must follow certain guidelines, or they could lose their non-profit status. Because they do work within the legal framework, they are free to enjoy their freedom of religion in what they do. Further, their ministry is not taxed, and they also earn a living from their ministry.
--The federal judge's decision for this case closes with the phrase"...the price of citizenship". I call the decision one of the "New Federalist Papers". Just as Hamilton, Madison, and Jay started the Federalist Papers in October 1787 to promote the Bill of Rights, these new federal judges' decisions are written to destroy them.