US photographer sued for not covering lesbian ceremony

A Christian photographer who refused to take photographs of a ‘commitment ceremony’ between two women is being sued in the United States under laws similar to the UK’s sexual orientation regulations on goods and services.

Attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organisation in America, are representing the photographer who is being sued in the state of New Mexico.

The ADF says: “The constitutional right of Americans to refrain from participating in a ceremony or other event because their sincerely held religious beliefs conflict with its message is at stake.”

If the prosecution is successful, “…Christians could be forced to advocate for viewpoints with which they disagree or to participate in events that violate their conscience.”

When the sexual orientation regulations were introduced in the UK, The Christian Institute warned that the religious liberty of Christian professionals was at risk. The Institute gave a number of scenarios, including a Christian photographer declining to cover a civil partnership ceremony.

In 2007, after a judicial review of the regulations in Northern Ireland, a High Court judgment said county courts should consider the principles of a Canadian case where it was decided that a Christian printer should not be forced to print something that goes against his or her core religious beliefs.

Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence of the ADF says: “Christians shouldn’t be penalized for abiding by their beliefs. The state cannot force unwilling people to promote a message they disagree with and thereby violate their conscience.

“The state’s prosecution violates our client’s First Amendment rights [freedom of religion and freedom of expression]. The government cannot make people choose between their faith and their job.”

The hearing will take place on 28 and 29 January 2008.

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