Christian photographer claims New York law silences her free speech

Emilee Carpenter/ Alliance Defending Freedom

A Christian photographer is suing the state of New York, claiming that a state nondiscrimination law violates her free speech rights.

In Emilee Carpenter Photography v. James, Emilee Carpenter – a photographer and blogger – says that a state civil rights law prohibits her from stating on her website that she will not photograph same-sex wedding ceremonies for religious reasons.

State human rights law forbids businesses from denying accommodations to people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, or from posting that their “patronage” is “unwelcome, objectionable or not acceptable, desired or solicited.”

Carpenter’s attorney says that the state cannot force her to promote messages contrary to her beliefs.

“Creative professionals like Emilee should have the freedom to create art consistent with their beliefs without fear of the government closing their business or throwing them in jail,” stated Bryan Neihart, legal counsel with the group Alliance Defending Freedom.

“Emilee serves all people; she just cannot promote messages which contradict her religious beliefs about any topic, including marriage,” he said. “The government cannot treat some people worse than others based on their religious views.”

Carpenter’s website does not explicitly note her opposition to same-sex marriage, but does state her beliefs “that marriage is a picture of the gospel and demonstrates the redemptive love of Jesus Christ, who willingly gave Himself up for us by going to the cross, paying the debt for our sins, and paving a way for us to be united with Him. He died to His own interests, looking to our own needs, and painted a picture of sacrificial love in action.”

Her website further identifies her as a “photographer, wife, believer,” and she states that the wheat symbol is present in her company’s logo as a reminder “to recall Who it’s all for – the glory of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Carpenter claims that since March, she has been asked to photograph six same-sex wedding ceremonies. Her lawsuit notes that while she is free to refuse photography services for other reasons, she cannot have a policy of refusing same-sex wedding ceremonies out of conscience.

Carpenter will not perform projects “that flout her artistic style, celebrate obscenity, or demean others,” the lawsuit states. “She likewise cannot promote certain views on marriage.”

“These laws do not simply dictate what she does; they dictate what she says,” the lawsuit says, noting that Carpenter is willing to work with clients regardless of their sexuality for non-wedding photography.

“But not satisfied with equal treatment, New York officials demand ideological purity—that Emilee violate her conscience by professing the state’s approved view about marriage,” the lawsuit states.

“Specifically, New York laws require Emilee to create photographs and blogs celebrating same-sex marriage because she creates photographs and blogs celebrating opposite-sex marriage.”

Further, the suit claims that Carpenter is forbidden “from adopting an editorial policy consistent with her beliefs about marriage,” and that she cannot “post statements on her business’s own website explaining her religious views on marriage or her reasons for only creating this wedding content.”

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