Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin last week challenging a local ordinance in Madison and a state law that force creative professionals to promote messages that violate their beliefs.
“Every American, and especially creative professionals, shouldn’t be threatened with punishment for disagreeing with the government,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs in a news release.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Amy Lynn Photography Studio. According to ADF, the laws require Amy Lawson, a Christian and the owner of the business, to create photos and blog posts promoting pro-abortion groups and same-sex marriages if she creates content that promotes pro-life causes or celebrates the marriage of one man and one woman.
The lawsuit is a pre-enforcement challenge. “Such lawsuits enable citizens to challenge a law that threatens their rights before the government enforces it against them,” the ADF news release said. “Pre-enforcement cases are the ‘bread and butter’ of civil rights litigation, with organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood routinely filing them to attack laws they oppose, sometimes even before those laws take effect.”
To illustrate the progressive impulse to want to punish those who refuse to promote a liberal message but extend protections to those who refuse to promote a conservative one, ADF produced a video featuring interviews with students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The students are confident that the fashion designer who refused to make anything for Melania Trump should be free to do so. They also expressed confidence that a hypothetical Muslim singer should be free to decline to sing at an Easter service at a Christian church. They defended both based on individual rights and free market principles. But when it came to whether a Christian photographer should be free to decline to take photos of a same-sex wedding, the same students were hesitant in their answers and viewed the situation as a complicated one that could raise legal issues.
Since 2006, Madison has investigated at least 11 alleged violations involving sexual orientation or political beliefs and Wisconsin officials have investigated at least nine businesses accused of violating laws based on sexual orientation, the ADF news release said. Violators are subject to stiff penalties. In Madison, violators face fines of up to $500 a day and are also liable for civil damages. Those who violate the state law face fines of up to $10,000 and suspension or loss of their business license, as well as civil and punitive damages.
The group Wisconsin Family Action applauded the filing of the lawsuit. “We have long known that Madison’s public accommodations ordinance is draconian—overreaching and free-speech chilling—and that the state public accommodations law is one of the broadest in the country,” the group said in a news release. “This pre-enforcement challenge to both Madison’s ordinance and the state law are timely, not just for Amy Lawson and her Amy Lynn Photography Studio, but for many others who are engaged in creative vocations where these laws essentially shut down their free speech.”
ADF has been involved in other cases defending Christian creative professionals and recently announced it would be appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court a ruling in Washington state against a florist who declined to provide a floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding.