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April 7, 2014 Print
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Supreme Court Won’t Hear Religious Freedom Case

by Kim Trobee

Attorneys for New Mexico photographer Elaine Huguenin found out today that the U.S. Supreme Court will not take their important religious-freedom case involving photographing same-sex commitment ceremonies.

The high court’s refusal to hear the case does not mean it affirms the New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that said Huguenin must use her creative talents to record a same-sex commitment ceremony as “the price of citizenship” in the United States.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys who represent Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin point out that the U.S. Supreme Court can deny a case for a variety of reasons and may merely be waiting for other similar cases to move through the lower courts.

“The First Amendment protects our freedom to speak or not speak on any issue without fear of punishment,” said ADF senior counsel Jordan Lorence. “We had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would use this case to affirm this basic constitutional principle; however, the court will likely have several more opportunities to do just that in other cases of ours that are working their way through the court system.”

The case started in 2006 when Vanessa Willock emailed Elaine Huguenin and asked her to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. Huguenin politely declined and Willock and her partner found another photographer at a lower price. Still, they filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.

In 2008 the commission ruled against the Huguenins and ordered them to pay attorney’s fees of more than $6,000. The case made its way to the New Mexico Supreme Court where justices ruled against the Huguenins, opening the way for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Conservative author and blogger Todd Starnes said in an article posted today he believes the high court’s inaction will put other Christians at risk.

“The idea that gay rights take precedence over everyone else’s rights,” he wrote, “was recently manifested in the forced resignation of Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich, who came under fire from the gay rights community after it was revealed he had donated money to California’s Prop 8 initiative.”

“I believe militant gay rights groups will start targeting churches that own fellowship halls. I believe they will start targeting pastors who preach against homosexuality. And I believe they will go after individuals who attend those kinds of churches.”

U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia also issued a statement.

“By refusing to take this case,” he said, “the Court is refusing to protect some of our most fundamental First Amendment freedoms — freedoms that our ancestors fought and died to obtain. The ability to freely speak and live according to our beliefs is the prize, not the price, of citizenship, and we all have a stake in protecting it.”

Lorence said the Huguenins will consider all their options.

“Elaine and numerous others like her around the country have been more than willing to serve any and all customers,” he said, “but they are not willing to promote any and all messages. A government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government every American should fear.”

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