Freedom UpdateChristian filmmakers threatened with punishment for living out their faith

The Larsens’ story

Carl and Angel Larsen are Bible-believing Christians who have a passion for marriage. They work hard to cultivate their own marriage and help other couples strengthen their own. Often, they provide couples pre-marital counseling, and Carl has even officiated two weddings.

The Larsens are also filmmakers with a dream.

As owners of a video and film production company, they have sought to use their creative talents to tell stories that honor God and His plan for marriage. They know that great storytelling through film has the power to change hearts and minds.

“As followers of Jesus, we believe marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman,” Carl explains. “Ultimately, we believe marriage exists to put God’s goodness on full display to the world."

“We want to tell the stories of couples who agree with this reality,” he adds, “and join in their celebration by adding our creativity to their union.”
As followers of Jesus, we believe marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman. Ultimately, we believe marriage exists to put God’s goodness on full display to the world.” —Carl Larsen

Christians are being threatened with punishment — and silenced

But before they could launch their idea, and begin telling wedding stories, the Larsens ran into a major obstacle — a speech-coercing state law. This law mandates that if the Larsens create films celebrating marriage between one man and one woman, they must also create films celebrating same-sex marriage.

Those who refuse can be punished with damages of up to $25,000 and 90 days in jail.

The Larsens were left with only three choices — none of them good. They could:

  1. Tell marriage stories that violate their conscience.
  2. Violate the law and suffer the consequences.
  3. Censor themselves from making any films about marriage.

Rather than accept any of these options, the Larsens decided to take a stand and challenge the state law. But they needed help. So Alliance Defending Freedom came alongside the Larsens to represent them free of charge.

A district court in Minnesota dismissed their first attempt to challenge the law. But the Larsens didn’t give up – and their battle for freedom continues in federal court. On October 16, 2018, ADF argued their case in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Threatened with punishment just for disagreeing with the government

The Larsens knew they needed to go to court to halt state control over their films. Otherwise, they could have faced crippling financial penalties, and even jail time.

“We have decided to assert our constitutionally protected rights before — not after — they are taken away,” Carl says. “We want to defend the freedom of all to live and work according to their consciences.  And sometimes, the best defense is a good offense.”

Government officials in Minnesota have repeatedly stated that businesses such as the Larsens’ violate the law if they decline to create expression promoting same-sex marriage. If this law is not overturned, it will continue to silence those who disagree with the state.

“Filmmakers shouldn’t be threatened with fines and jail simply for disagreeing with the government,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Every American — including creative professionals — should be free to peacefully live and work according to their faith without fear of punishment.”

Censorship and coerced expression are inconsistent with a free society, and in America they are unconstitutional. We must make sure Christians are not silenced. Will you give now to provide a strong defense for religious freedom?

We have decided to assert our constitutionally protected rights before — not after — they are taken away. We’re not here to pick a fight. We want to defend the freedom of all to live and work according to their consciences. And sometimes, the best defense is a good offense.” —Carl Larsen

Who will be next?

Activists and misguided government officials across America are determined to force Christians to express messages that violate their faith. They seem to be watching carefully for anyone they can punish.

Shortly after they filed their lawsuit, the Larsens received a request to produce a film celebrating a same-sex marriage, even though they are not currently in the wedding industry. Once they begin to promote their wedding services, they will surely receive more requests like it, perhaps in a deliberate attempt to set them up.

If the state has the power to dictate the content of films, it also has the power to force countless newspapers, writers, photographers, painters, and speakers to promote messages they disagree with.

Christians face the prospect of being silenced. But we must take a stand to defend the Larsens and others like them.

The government could target you

Unless we join together and turn the tide, it will become more likely that some authority forces you to violate your faith … that you and your church are censored and punished for preaching biblical values … that you are compelled by law to call what is good, evil, and what is evil, good … that you are forbidden from living out or expressing your faith.

Since May 2016, ADF has filed at least five other lawsuits like the one we filed for the Larsens. We did this to protect our clients’ freedom to run their churches and businesses consistent with their faith. These suits were filed to protect a variety of clients from unjust laws across America:

  • Wisconsin — for a photography studio
  • Iowa — for a church
  • Massachusetts — to defend four churches
  • Arizona — for a custom art studio
  • Colorado — for a website and graphic design company

The good news is that through the generous financial support that you and others provide, Alliance Defending Freedom is regularly winning important cases. These victories suggest that we have good reason for hope. 

But this momentum will last only if you and others give to help fund the battle.

Take part in the $2 million challenge grant!

Alliance Defending Freedom has established a strong record of success in defending your religious freedom. But your help is critically needed now. Because, for the Larsens and many others, the fight is not over.

God has shown us time and time again that when we stand together to protect religious freedom, we can be victorious. But protecting religious freedom isn’t “someone else’s fight.” It’s your fight. It’s our fight.

A generous Christian family has given a $2 million challenge grant to help provide a strong legal defense for the Larsens and other Christians like them. They hope to inspire you to join them today to defend religious freedom.

About Alliance Defending Freedom

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, nonprofit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

ADF was launched in 1994 by 35 ministry leaders, including Dr. James Dobson, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Dr. Bill Bright, and Larry Burkett.

With God’s blessing, ADF has grown from the prayers of those godly leaders to become a major force in the legal battle for religious freedom, winning nearly 80% of our cases, including nine victories at the U.S. Supreme Court in the last seven years.