From the desk of Wisconsin Family Action/Wisconsin Family Council president Julaine Appling:
Last week, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in a case that I believe will have significant repercussions across the country. Here’s the background.
A husband and wife, Jon and Elaine Huguenin, own a photography company, Elane Photography—a family business—in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jon and Elaine are committed Christians, attempting to live their faith in real life. They provide private sittings, weddings and other photography services. One day in 2006 two women came into their studio and wanted to talk about hiring Elane Photgraphy to photograph a wedding. When it came out that it was a same-sex ceremony, Elane Photgraphy declined to take the event.
Per the Hugueins’ testimony, Elane Photography will photograph individuals who might be homosexuals, but they will not photograph a ceremony that publicly stands for something they totally disagree with. From their perspective, doing so puts their stamp of approval on the redefinition of marriage. As Christians they believe God’s plan for marriage is inviolate and that attempts to redefine it are wrong.
Sometime after this incident, one of the two women seeking their services filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. The complaint alleged that Elane Photography, and by extension its owners, the Huguenins, violated New Mexico’s human rights law because they denied service to the women based on their sexual orientation.
New Mexico’s human rights law prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation and other protected classes in public accommodations. Public accommodations is defined as “any establishment that provides or offers its services…or goods to the public,”.
In 2008 the New Mexico Human Rights Commission ruled that Elane Photgraphy had violated the law by denying its publicly advertised services based on sexual orientation. Eventually, the case made its way to the New Mexico Supreme Court. That court last week agreed with the Human Rights Commission and found the Huguenins guilty of breaking New Mexico’s human rights law.
In the crosshairs of this case is, of course, the Hugueins religious liberty. In this instance, their religious liberty was solidly trumped by New Mexico’s so-called human rights law. The majority opinion in this case is sobering, but what was especially attention-getting is the concurring opinion written by Justice Richard C. Bosson. Listen carefully to what this justice said: “…the Huguenins…now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives. Though the rule of law requires it, the result is sobering. It will no doubt leave a tangible mark on the Huguenins and others of similar views.
“On a larger scale, this case provokes reflection on what this nation is all about, its promise of fairness, liberty, equality of opportunity, and justice. 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. A multicultural, pluralistic society, one of our nation’s strengths, demands no less. The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead. The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life.
“In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, 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. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship. I therefore concur.”
I hope you caught the essence here and I hope you are alarmed. This justice who voted against the religious freedom of this company and its owners, said people of faith have to pay a price to be a citizen and that price is the compromise of one’s faith. Further, this justice is clearly saying we can believe what we want as long as we keep it private but we don’t have the right to hold our beliefs in our businesses or maybe anywhere else in public. That may be freedom of worship, but that is not freedom of religion and that’s what the First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees us.
The drum beat against religious freedom has gotten louder and faster. Silencing our beliefs is part of what must be done to advance the liberal agenda. What’s your religious freedom worth to you?