(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) A Madison, Wisc. photographer is challenging a city ordinance and state law that could force creative professionals to violate their religious beliefs.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal nonprofit dedicated to protecting religious freedom, filed a lawsuit against the City of Madison on Tuesday as a preparatory measure to ensure the government could not coerce Amy Lawson and her privately-owned photography studio to create and promote content that violates her convictions.
According to the lawsuit, Lawson’s freedom to promote and avoid certain creative content is at stake because Madison’s law makes it illegal for public accommodations to deny “equal enjoyment” because of someone’s sexual orientation or political beliefs.
ADF said under this law, Lawson would be forced to photograph and blog about pro-abortion groups and same-sex marriages if she posted about pro-life organizations and celebrated the traditional union of one man and one woman. The law also prohibits her from posting a disclaimer on her website that states her right to reserve discretion not use her artistic talent to promote messages that violate her religious convictions.
“Amy can hardly promote her beliefs while glamorizing contrary ideas,” the lawsuit says. “Amy therefore cannot photograph or write about things celebrating pornography, racism, violence, abortion, or any marriage besides marriage between one man and one woman, such as same-sex marriage. Nor can she photograph or write about organizations that promote those beliefs.”
Lawson posted a statement on her business’s website in January 2016 that said she would not photograph same-sex marriages, and kept it on her website for three months.
Last spring Lawson met with a client in Madison who had a signed a wedding contract with her, the lawsuit says. After the two discussed Lawson’s position on same-sex marriage, the client sought to cancel her contract with Lawson because she said she disagreed with Lawson’s religious convictions.
Lawson agreed to cancel the contract and refund the customer her deposit, and even sent the would-be client a wedding gift, the lawsuit says.
Shortly after that job was canceled, Lawson removed the message on her business’s website regarding her views on same-sex marriage, concerned about the growing number of “Christian business owners being sued for declining to promote same-sex marriage,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
“Every American, and especially creative professionals, shouldn’t be threatened with punishment for disagreeing with the government,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “The government must allow artists the freedom to make their own decisions about which ideas they will use their artistic expression to promote. Amy is happy to take photographs of anyone; she simply objects to being forced to participate in events, or promote messages or causes, that she can’t support.”