It was a relief for Christians all around the country when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cake Shop.
The bakery had been sued for refusing to make wedding cakes for homosexual couples, but the Supreme Court deemed that the bakery owner was within his religious rights to do so.
However, that case is only one of a long list of similar suits, the latest of which involves a Christian film company.
In the case involving Masterpiece Cake Shop, the Supreme Court never addressed the core issue presented, argued Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
ADF is a Christian conservative organization that advocates for religious freedom across the United States.
Tedesco said the unaddressed issue in the Masterpiece Cake Shop case was “whether the government has the power to force creative professionals to create artistic expression that violates their deepest convictions.”
This question was at the forefront of Tedesco’s latest case, Telescope Media Group v. Lucero.
This case involved Carl and Angel Larsen, a Christian couple from Minnesota who make films “to help their clients tell their most important stories.”
“As Christians, they want every story they tell to magnify God like a telescope, hence the name of their business,” said Tedesco.
“They gladly create films for everyone, no matter who they are, what they believe, or where they’re from.”
“But like most other filmmakers,” Tedesco continued, “the Larsens cannot create films that express every message.”
That’s how the Larsens found themselves in court.
The couple wants to begin making wedding films. They intend to use their creative talents to promote a Biblical view of marriage. However, according to officials in Minnesota, “they must also create films that celebrate different views of marriage.”
If the Larsens want to make movies about traditional marriage, they must also create films that celebrate and support same-sex marriages. If they don’t, officials threatened, they could spend months in jail or pay steep fines.
“This kind of raw government power has no place in a free society,” argued Tedesco.
“Put simply, Minnesota officials gave the Larsens a devastating choice: Create films that express messages in conflict with your core beliefs, or face imprisonment.”
Many people in today’s society would say it’s impossible for the Larsens to treat someone with respect and love unless they show complete support for that person’s lifestyle.
Activists argue that people like the Larsens are discriminating against homosexuals by not creating art that supports and affirms the homosexual lifestyle.
But those who know the couple know that they “live their lives with a faith-inspired commitment to diversity [and] love of neighbor.”
“The Larsens regularly welcome people into their home and lives who don’t share their culture, ethnicity, or deep religious convictions,” shared Tedesco, who knows his clients well.
“They host strangers for coffee, invite people without plans to join them for the holidays, and often fill the open seats at their twelve-foot-long dinner table with people they met just yesterday.”
The Larsens aren’t trying to discriminate against those who hold different views than they do: they’re simply trying to live their faith as completely and gracefully as possible.
Thankfully, when Telescope Media Group v. Lucero was brought before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court ruled in favor of the Christian couple. The court ruled that the Larsens’ films are free speech protected by the First Amendment.
When asked whether the State of Minnesota can force the Larsens to produce films celebrating homosexual unions, the court gave “a resounding ‘no.’”
“The government has no business telling people what they must say,” said Tedesco. He pointed out that “this fundamental rule protects everyone,” not just Christians.
“The same principle that protects the Larsens also ensures that government cannot demand that an atheist musician perform at an evangelical church service or force a Democratic speechwriter to provide the same services to a Republican,” concluded Tedesco.
LGBTQ activists may be upset about the outcome of Telescope Media Group v. Lucero, just as they were with the Masterpiece Cake Shop case, but the precedent set by the court protects their rights as well.
“The last thing we should do in this moment is to give the government new power to squelch speech and mandate uniformity of thought on contentious social, moral, and political issues,” said Tedesco, reflecting on a string of similar cases involving Christian creative professionals.
“The right outcome in these cases is what the Larsens practice around their table: a diverse array of people gather there to build community, discuss their differences reasonably, treat each other with respect, and extend each other the freedom to live by their own consciences,” Tedesco added.
Pray for God’s hand in the cases that are still in state and circuit courts. May the courts involved have wisdom to recognize issues of religious freedom and rule in favor of free speech!