State AGs backing filmmakers under fire for their faith

Wednesday, February 14, 2018
 | 
Chris Woodward, Jody Brown (OneNewsNow.com)

Carl and Angel Larsen (filmmakers)Several states and legal scholars are expressing their support for artistic freedom and religious expression in a legal challenge involving two Minnesota filmmakers who are facing possible fines and even jail time for living out their faith.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit has received several friend-of-the-court briefs, including one filed by ten states, in support of the artistic freedom of Carl and Angel Larsen, owners of Telescope Media Group. The Christian filmmakers are challenging the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), saying it requires them to use their talents to promote same-sex "marriages" if they produce films that celebrate marriage between one man and one woman. Violators of the law face fines and jail time.

The Larsens, who are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, asked a federal district court for an injunction that would suspend enforcement of the law against them while their case proceeds. The court denied that request and instead ruled in favor of the state's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which means the Larsens have to continue censoring their own speech about marriage to avoid violating the law.

ADF attorney Jeremy Tedesco explains that his clients have filed an appeal with the 8th Circuit, asking that the lawsuit be reinstated.

Tedesco, Jeremy (ADF)Ten states have now filed a brief – signed by their respective attorneys general – in support of the Larsens: Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia. Tedesco says those states understand that the government should not threaten artists with fines and jail time simply for living out their beliefs in the marketplace.

"Utilizing the weight of government power to order individuals to speak in a manner that violates their conscience is fundamentally at odds with the freedom of expression and tolerance for a diversity of viewpoints that this nation has long enjoyed and promoted," the attorney states.

Obviously the ten AGs who filed the supporting brief agree:

"... The Supreme Court has consistently ... upheld the principle that the government cannot force individuals to speak or adhere to an ideology with which they disagree. When a law effectively compels a person both to create expression and to participate in an expressive event, as does the MHRA, the application of that law to that person triggers heightened scrutiny under the First Amendment." [p. 10]

Almost a dozen legal scholars have joined the Cato Institute in another friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Larsens.

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