A few weeks ago, Cynthia and Robert Gifford wrapped up their 2015 Fall Festival season at Liberty Ridge Farm in upstate New York. For the two months prior, they opened their charming 100-acre farm to the public for fun fall activities like pumpkin picking, eating cider donuts, and exploring an 11-acre cornfield maze.
I can just imagine the memories created at this farm over the past few months, as delighted children and families of all ages enjoyed the farm. It's almost enough to make one overlook the cloud that's been hanging over Liberty Ridge Farm for the past year and a half. Almost.
Last July, the New York State Division of Human Rights ruled that the Giffords were guilty of "sexual orientation discrimination" for declining to coordinate a same-sex wedding ceremony at their farm. The Commissioner fined them $10,000 plus $3,000 in damages and ordered the Giffords to implement staff re-education classes that contradict the Giffords’ beliefs about marriage.
In October 2014, the Giffords appealed the ruling, and yesterday, ADF attorney Caleb Dalton, along with ADF Allied Attorney James Trainor, represented the Giffords before the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division.
“All Americans should be free to live and work according to their beliefs, especially in their own backyards,” said Dalton. “The government is coming after both this couple’s freedom and their ability to make a living simply for adhering to their faith on their own property.”
Why the state thought it was okay to force Americans to violate their sincerely held beliefs – in their own backyard – is beyond me. This is particularly concerning because the Giffords don’t merely host the wedding ceremonies in their backyard, Ms. Gifford actively coordinates and personally participates in those sacred events.
The Giffords' decision not to coordinate same-sex weddings at their home has very little to do with people who identify as gay or lesbian. It's about what marriage is. To the Giffords, a wedding ceremony is a sacred event—it's the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong union.
Accusing the Giffords of discrimination and attacking their livelihood because they hold a belief that is consistent with their faith is un-American.
That's what makes this year's Liberty Ridge corn "maize" that much more meaningful. The Giffords took their nod from the copper penny. Emblazoned with the word "Liberty" and the phrase "In God We Trust," the national motto of the United States, the one cent coin affirms our God-given and constitutionally protected freedom.
In his 1861 address to the New Jersey Senate, Abraham Lincoln said:
"I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea for which that struggle was made, and I shall be most happy indeed if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle."
The Giffords have had to trust God mightily these past few years, but their willingness to be used as a "humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty" and to stand up for their faith and their religious liberty is exactly the kind of example our country needs right now.
How You Can Support Religious Liberty
Advocates may claim otherwise, but same-sex marriage does affect you. Disagreeing with this "tolerant" view of marriage is seen as a threat, since sexual rights are considered more important than your freedom to worship, run your business, and express your opinion in a way that's consistent with your faith. Learn more about how the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling is redesigning society here