We want to tell great film stories about marriage between men and women. State law would wrongly bind us.
Imagine, if you can, government officials sitting down with Alfred Hitchcock back in the day, to tell him that, despite his commitment to making great films of suspense, political correctness demanded that he start making musicals, too. Or else.
Or maybe they’d crack down on Steven Spielberg. If he’s going to make a monster hit about a shark, he’s going to have to do films about dolphins, too. Again, or else.
Absurd, right? Unfortunately, it’s happening in Minnesota.
My wife, Angel, and I are the owners of Telescope Media Group, a video production company that exists to glorify God through top-quality media production.
Over the last eight years, we’ve created content around the globe. Our skills are broad, and our clients are varied. But one thing is consistent: Whether we’re directing live events, running cameras, editing, or writing a script, we are in the business of telling great stories that honor God and amaze our clients.
And now we’d like to start telling stories about marriage. As followers of Jesus, we believe marriage is a sacred covenant, instituted by God, exclusively between a man and woman. Ultimately, we believe marriage exists to put God’s goodness on full display to the world. That’s why we want to enter into the wedding market.
We want to tell the stories of couples who agree with this reality, and join in their celebration by adding our creativity to their union through our efforts behind the camera and in the editing room.
We know that not everyone looks at marriage the same way we do. And that’s their constitutionally protected right. We also know that many videographers are more than happy to celebrate same-sex unions and create films that delight same-sex couples. Those filmmakers should be free to run their businesses and apply their artistic talents in the ways they see fit.
But the state of Minnesota says that’s not good enough. Same-sex marriage is an idea whose time, they feel, has come, and celebrating these unions is not just an option that creative professionals can join into. It’s now a requirement for simply entering the marketplace.
The Minnesota Human Rights Act, as currently enforced by the state’s Department of Human Rights, requires that anyone who makes films promoting man-woman weddings has to make them for same-sex unions, too — or face draconian penalties. Those penalties could include punitive damages of up to $25,000, triple compensatory damages, and up to 90 days in jail.
All that for the sake of forcing an artist to celebrate an idea she doesn’t believe in while denying another artist (who is agreeable to the idea) the opportunity to freely use her creativity.
This is simply wrong. Is the state also going to start requiring Muslim singers to perform Christian hymns? Democratic speechwriters to work up talking points for Republican candidates? Or creatives who script Planned Parenthood ads to make “equal time” commercials for the March for Life?
This state requirement is unconstitutional. It denies all artists — not just filmmakers who agree with me — their most basic freedoms of speech, religious conviction and creative independence.
This disagreement will eventually have to be settled in the courts. But in the meantime, my wife and I are tethered by a short creative leash. The Department of Human Rights’ aggressive endorsement of state-mandated political correctness means we can’t enter the marriage field and operate according to our religious beliefs about marriage without being in violation of the law.
So Minnesota has really left us with three bad options: We can (1) create films that violate our deepest beliefs, (2) decline to create such films — and suffer the consequences of investigation, prosecution and maybe even jail time, or (3) avoid those consequences by censoring our own speech and creative output regarding marriage.
None of these options sound good to us, so we have decided to assert our constitutionally protected rights before — not after — they’re taken away. As a result, we have filed a pre-emptive, “pre-enforcement” lawsuit against the state, challenging Minnesota’s Human Rights Act as unconstitutional (“Same-sex marriage law spurs first suit,” Dec. 7).
Our business doesn’t deal in “neutral,” one-size-fits-all services. Instead, we tell customized stories, using our creative talents, to partner with those whose projects and ideas we can promote with a clear conscience. We don’t reject people, but we turn down projects whose messages conflict with our core beliefs.
We would like to think most people can understand those distinctions. But if they can’t, the state certainly should — especially a government founded on the freedom of each and every citizen to believe in his heart and speak his mind according to his own conscience.
We’re not here to pick a fight. The fight has already been picked by Minnesota officials more entranced by political correctness than they are committed to the Constitution. We’re not looking to denigrate anyone, or force the government or our fellow citizens to embrace our personal religious beliefs.
We want to defend the freedom of all to live and work according to their consciences. And sometimes, the best defense is a good offense.
Carl Larsen and his wife, Angel, are the owners of Telescope Media Group in St. Cloud.