A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of Christian filmmakers Carl and Angel Larsen, the co-owners of Telescope Media Group.
The couple appeared before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2018 to challenge a Minnesota state law which they say illegally forced them to produce and create films expressing messages that contradict their core beliefs.
In 2017, the Larsens' tried to challenge the law as unconstitutional but a lower court dismissed their case and mandated that they also offer their filmmaking services to same-sex weddings or close this part of their business.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a non-profit religious freedom law firm, represented the Larsens.
"This is a significant win. The government shouldn't threaten filmmakers with fines and jail time to force them to create films that violate their beliefs," said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco.
The Larsens complaint was that it is unconstitutional under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to order them to make same-sex-wedding videos.
According to the ADF, Minnesota officials have repeatedly stated that private businesses such as the Larsens' violate the law if they decline to create films promoting same-sex weddings. Penalties for violation include payment of a civil penalty to the state; triple compensatory damages; punitive damages of up to $25,000 and a criminal penalty of up to $1,000.
The Larsens' were even threatened with up to 90 days in jail if they chose to disregard the law.
"Angel and I serve everyone. We just can't produce films promoting every message," said Carl Larsen following the court's decision. "We are thankful the court recognized that government officials can't force religious believers to violate their beliefs to pursue their passion. This is a win for everyone, regardless of your beliefs."
"Carl and Angel work with all people; they just don't create films promoting all messages. All creative professionals should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment," Tedesco added.