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Minutes with Alan

Negative Exposure
by Alan Sears

All we wanted was someone who could take the family picture for our annual Christmas card. 

My wife and I were at the Alliance Defending Freedom Academy, on the coast of California, a summer or two ago. It seemed an especially picturesque setting for our yuletide photo. So I asked friends in the area for recommendations of a good photographer. 

A name was suggested. We reviewed the woman’s website, found her work of high quality and her prices reasonable, and emailed for an appointment. But on learning what the ministry of ADF is about, she replied that she wouldn’t take our picture. She disagreed with some of our core beliefs, and didn’t want to use her artistic talents to tacitly show support for us by photographing my wife and me. 

Now, some might call that “discrimination.” They might urge us to sue this woman and force her either to photograph us, against her will, or pay us damages for daring to reject our business. 

But I understand where she’s coming from. Our ADF attorneys spend a lot of their best energies defending business owners and artists who, out of convictions of conscience, choose not to use their talents to profit from, or support, certain activities of others. The freedom to make those kinds of choices goes to the essence of what it means to be an American—enjoying the right to express and act on our convictions, whether they’re religious, political, or anything else. 

We call it your “freedom of conscience.” And protecting it means showing genuine tolerance—the kind that goes both ways, for our clients and those who oppose them. Because what we’re protecting is not the viewpoint of one person or family or group, but the right of all Americans to have a viewpoint, and gracefully live it out, day by day.

The photographer in California didn’t scream at me. She didn’t call me names or threaten my life or my family. She didn’t submit me to a lengthy lecture filled with all of her objections to the work of ADF. She simply said “no,” and briefly explained her reasons. I respected that. 

When a photographer client of ours in New Mexico did that to two women who asked her to use her talents in celebrating their same-sex ceremony, the women filed a complaint. A state Supreme Court judge told our client she should pay them thousands of dollars and photograph them. He called that “the price of citizenship in America today.” 

That picture of our Constitution is more than a little out of focus. And I’d like to think a certain California photographer might agree with me.

John 15:5—Apart from Christ, we can do nothing.

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