The New Mexico Supreme Court, in a ruling regarding a Christian photographer who declined to photograph the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple, stated that this violated the state’s Human Rights Act.
In 2006, Elane Huguenin, a professional photographer, was asked to photograph the ceremony of a lesbian couple. Huguenin declined, citing her religious beliefs, and subsequently had a complaint filed against her with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. She was found guilty of discrimination and fined. Justice Richard Bosson, in the court’s unanimous decision wrote:
The Huguenins today can no more turn away customers on the basis of their sexual orientation – photographing a same-sex marriage ceremony – than they could refuse to photograph African-Americans or Muslims…
At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others,” he wrote.
He said the Constitution protects the rights of the Christian photographers to pray to the God of their choice and following religious teachings, but offered a sobering warning.
“But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life,” the justice wrote. “The Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.”
At National Review Online, Kathryn Jean Lopez echoes Mark R. Levin in that our nation is now entering a state of “soft tyranny.” Lopez says this about the New Mexico court ruling:
The court ruled that it is “the price of citizenship” that, although you can believe whatever you want, you can’t act as if you take certain beliefs all that seriously. It would seem the position of the New Mexico Supreme Court is that believing men and women are expressly made for the institution of marriage, for one another — that their very biology suggests as much, naturally ordered toward the creative gifts that are children — is somewhat akin to believing in unicorn gods who will come to set us free. That is: utterly absurd. Believe it in private if you wish; but don’t ever try to operate in the world outside your active imagination or your codependent church with your crazy beliefs in mind.
And this, she says, is how we find ourselves in the state of “soft tyranny.” Lopez goes on to discuss Levin’s new book, The Liberty Amendments, in which, she says, he indicts today’s America. Quoting Levin:
Social engineering and central planning are imposed without end, since the governing masterminds, drunk with their own conceit and pomposity, have wild imaginations and infinite ideas for reshaping society and molding man’s nature in search of the ever-elusive utopian paradise. Their clumsy experiments and infantile pursuits are not measured against any rational standard. Their preciousness and sanctimony are justification enough.”
What we see, Lopez states, is a civil society that is “waning and threatened.” Religious beliefs are to be privatized, because acting on one’s beliefs leads to punitive action, as the New Mexico ruling shows. Those with certain religious convictions become marginalized citizens, in the quest for a liberty that seems increasingly bent on infringing upon denying religious liberty beyond the scope of worship. That is, the legal atmosphere in the U.S. is consistently pushing for “freedom to worship” but not religious liberty. What is the difference?
It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith? Without religious liberty properly understood, all Americans suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day, both here at home and overseas.
What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it. Religious believers are part of American civil society, which includes neighbors helping each other, community associations, fraternal service clubs, sports leagues, and youth groups. All these Americans make their contribution to our common life, and they do not need the permission of the government to do so. Restrictions on religious liberty are an attack on civil society and the American genius for voluntary associations.
Instead, we are at a place where those with religious convictions are told to “compromise” and “accommodate.” Is this the vision of justice we are willing to settle for?