Joseph La Rue and Kerri Kupec of Alliance Defending Freedom offered an excellent explanation last week on why our basic religious freedoms need better protection.
Even though the U.S. government has a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act protecting religious liberties from encroachment by the federal government, the State of Arkansas has yet to pass a similar law protecting religious expression at the state level. Below is an explanation of what can happen when a state does not adequately protect the religious liberties of its citizens.
So, what happens in states that don’t have a clear [Religious Freedom Restoration Act]? Elane Photography in New Mexico is a perfect illustration.
Elaine Huguenin, the Christian owner of Elane Photography, declined to photograph what two women called their “commitment ceremony.” The women had no trouble finding another photographer because plenty of them were clamoring for their business. But the couple sued Elaine’s business anyway, alleging that it had violated a law banning sexual orientation discrimination.
Elaine, however, did not refuse the women because they identify as homosexual. She declined to photograph the ceremony only because she didn’t want to promote a message at odds with her sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage. So, Elaine asserted a defense under New Mexico’s RFRA, similar to Arizona’s current RFRA, saying that the government should not be able to force her to promote and participate in the ceremony when doing so violates her religious convictions.
Forcing someone to disregard their faith and act contrary to it violates their dignity as a person. But that’s what happened to Elaine because the ambiguity in New Mexico’s RFRA, like Arizona’s current one, allowed the New Mexico Supreme Court to hand down a strained interpretation that actually distinguished between Elaine as a photographer and Elaine as a small-business owner.