The New Mexico Supreme Court recently handed down a very frightening ruling concerning our religious liberty. In 2006, Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, owners of Elane Photography, were asked by Vanessa Willock to photograph her same-sex commitment ceremony. The owners of the photography studio refused citing that this ceremony was in conflict with their Christian beliefs. A complaint was filed and Elane’s Photography found themselves in the court system, ending with a ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court.
In its decision, the court was very clear on the definition of the free exercise of religion. In fact, the court gave the following definition in its findings: “Free exercise of religion is defined as an act or a refusal to act that is substantially motivated by religious belief.” I don’t know what could possibly fit into this definition any better than the claim of the photographers that they would not photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony because it was against their Christian beliefs.
Yet, in the court’s written opinion, Justice Richard Bosson said this court ruling “…is little comfort to the Huguenins, who now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives. Though the rule of law requires it, the result is sobering. It will no doubt leave a tangible mark on the Huguenins and others of similar views.” The danger here is that the courts are now telling all of us that we must compartmentalize our religious beliefs. What we believe on a Sunday we cannot act upon on Monday or we will be in violation of the law.
The photographers claimed that by taking photographs of the same-sex ceremony, those who viewed the pictures would be led to believe that the photographers agreed with the actions depicted in the pictures. Justice Bosson and the court disagreed with this claim saying, “Reasonable observers are unlikely to interpret Elane Photography’s photographs as an endorsement of the photographed events.” Really? I would think most reasonable observers equate photographs as endorsements. If I enter a restaurant and see pictures on the wall of good food, I would assume the restaurant values good food. If I saw pictures on the wall of unsanitary conditions, I would leave. Pictures used by a business certainly are endorsements and advertisements for the business.
Toward the end of the opinion, Justice Bosson said this, “If honoring same-sex marriage would so conflict with their fundamental religious tenets…how then, they ask, can the State of New Mexico compel them to “disobey God” in this case? How indeed?”
The court went on to answer this fundamental question. Here is a part of the opinion from the court:
“There is a lesson here. In a constitutional form of government, personal, religious, and moral beliefs, when acted upon to the detriment of someone else’s rights, have constitutional limits. The Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different…In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.
So…the courts in New Mexico have said it. How can the State compel us to disobey God? It’s the price of citizenship.
Please bring us some leaders with some common sense.