In America, religious people and organizations shouldn’t be forced by the government to violate their conscience.
You would think that would be a sentiment we could all get behind. But as the florist, the baker, the photographer, and even several churches know, that hasn’t been the trend in this country in recent years.
Rather, we’ve seen an alarming increase in government threats to basic religious freedoms. Several brave ADF clients are demonstrating the path forward for those concerned that their business, ministry, or church may be the next target of laws that limit religious freedom. Rather than waiting for their businesses and churches to come under fire, these clients have courageously gone on the offense.
In the past year, ADF has filed six pre-enforcement lawsuits to protect our clients’ freedom – and, really, everyone’s freedom – to run their churches and businesses consistently with their faith. In fact, we filed a pre-enforcement lawsuit just last week on behalf of photographer and blogger Amy Lawson. Here’s what their cases are all about:
1. Fort Des Moines Church of Christ
The Iowa government attempted to censor churches’ teaching on biblical sexuality and to force churches to open their restrooms and showers to members of the opposite sex. ADF filed suit on behalf of the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ. At stake was the right of churches to teach their religious beliefs and to use their houses of worship consistently with those beliefs without government intrusion and threat of punishment.
The Iowa Civil Rights Commission eventually revised its unconstitutional guidance applying the law to churches after a federal judge held that churches were not places of public accommodation that could be regulated by the state. Because the threat to churches was eliminated, Fort Des Moines Church of Christ dismissed its lawsuit.
2. Horizon Christian Fellowship, Swansea Abundant Life Assembly of God, House of Destiny Ministries, and Faith Christian Fellowship of Haverhill
Massachusetts added “gender identity” to its nondiscrimination laws, and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination issued guidance that this would apply to churches if they host events open to the public, such as “spaghetti suppers.” The practical effect of this law was to force churches to open their sensitive areas — like changing rooms and restrooms — to members of the opposite biological sex.
Four churches filed suit to preserve their right to operate consistently with their faith. Thankfully, the commission revised its guidance applying the law to churches and acknowledged that churches have the right to operate their facilities according to their religious beliefs. As a result, the churches dismissed their lawsuit.
3. Breanna Koski and Joanna Duka of Brush & Nib Studio
Breanna Koski and Joanna Duka, owners of custom art studio Brush & Nib, filed suit against a Phoenix ordinance that compels them to use their artistic talents to promote messages and events that violate their faith, including same-sex weddings. The law even prohibits them from explaining that they can only create artwork consistent with their religious beliefs. If they do not, they face significant fines and up to six months in jail.
Breanna and Joanna are standing for the right of all Americans to live and work consistently with their faith. Their case is ongoing.
4. Lorie Smith of 303 Creative
Similar to the Phoenix ordinance, a Colorado law would force Lorie Smith, owner of website and graphic design company 303 Creative, to use her artistic talents to promote messages and events that violate her faith. For example, Lorie would like to use her talents to create wedding websites that celebrate marriage as God designed it, between one man and one woman, while declining to promote other weddings such as same-sex weddings. But she is faced with severe consequences under the law if she does so.
No American should be forced to use their creative talents to promote an event or message that contradicts their faith. That’s what Lorie is standing for in her ongoing case.
5. Carl and Angel Larsen of Telescope Media Group
Carl and Angel Larsen, owners of film production company Telescope Media Group, are challenging a Minnesota law. Minnesota officials interpret the law to require the Larsens to make films celebrating same-sex marriages if they make films celebrating marriages between one man and one woman. But the Larsens are Christians who believe that God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman. Promoting anything else violates their faith.
ADF filed suit against this law on the Larsens behalf in December, and the case is ongoing.
6. Amy Lawson of Amy Lynn Photography Studio
Amy Lawson is a photographer and blogger who owns Amy Lynn Photography Studio in Madison, Wisconsin. Under a Madison law, she could be forced to take photos and write blogs celebrating same-sex weddings as well as Planned Parenthood rallies or other pro-abortion events and organizations. As a Christian, this violates her religious beliefs. ADF filed suit on Amy’s behalf last week.
We can no longer settle for simply defending our religious freedom. We must go on offense. We must be proactive. These 11 clients took a bold stand by filing a lawsuit before a law was enforced against them. Seeing other Christians across the country be punished under similar laws, they decided not to wait for such a law to be enforced against them simply for exercising their basic rights as US citizens. Why?
Because they believe in the Gospel.
Because they care about honoring God with the artistic talents He gave them.
And because their religious freedom – and yours – is worth fighting for.
Learn More about Pre-Enforcement Challenges
This is the third and final post in a blog series about pre-enforcement challenges. To view the other posts in the series, visit the links below.
You Asked, We Answer: What Is a Pre-Enforcement Challenge?
3 Times the Left Used Pre-Enforcement Challenges to Advance Their Agenda