A Christian photography company, which was fined thousands of dollars because it refused to work at a same-sex ‘commitment ceremony’, has been denied a hearing at the US Supreme Court.
In 2006 Elane Photography was approached by a lesbian woman, Vanessa Willock, who wanted the firm to capture her same-sex relationship celebration.
But the company’s owner Elaine Huguenin, who is based in the US state of New Mexico, turned the job down saying it conflicted with her and her husband’s Christian beliefs.
Willock found a different photographer for her ceremony but still filed a complaint against Elane Photography.
And last August, following a lengthy court battle, New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against the business and told the owners they must “compromise” their beliefs to accommodate other views.
The Huguenins, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), wanted to appeal this decision in the highest court in America.
But the US Supreme Court has declined to take up the case.
“The injustice is difficult to overstate,” said ADF president Alan Sears. “Make no mistake, this issue is all about the government forcing a citizen to communicate a message against her will and against her beliefs.”
In July 2013 a US poll found that 85 per cent of Americans believe a Christian photographer has the right to turn down a job capturing a same-sex ceremony if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.
In December, editorial articles in both The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Times agreed that a service provider, such as a Christian photographer, whose work involves the creation or communication of a message that conflicts with their beliefs, should have the freedom to turn down a job.
The Los Angeles Times stated: “Much as we support same-sex marriage and oppose discrimination, we do see a distinction between businesses that provide the same product or service to all comers and those that collaborate in the creation of a personalised message.”
The Washington Times, said: “In this clash of values, the religiously observant are relegated to the back of the legal bus.”
ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman, said: “Elaine and numerous others like her around the country have been more than willing to serve any and all customers, 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.”
“Only unjust laws separate what people say from what they believe,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence.
“The First Amendment protects our freedom to speak or not speak on any issue without fear of punishment. We had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would use this case to affirm this basic constitutional principle”, he added.