One year ago I published a post entitled Controversy: Do You Have The Right To Refuse Photographic Service? In that post I said:
"Two photographers in New Mexico, a husband and wife team, turned down a request to photograph a lesbian couple's 'commitment ceremony' due to conflicts with their religious beliefs. Some time later the lesbian couple sued the photographers and won.
"The photographers appealed the decision all the way to New Mexico's Supreme Court, and they still lost. One justice wrote that the photographers must compromise their religious beliefs as 'the price of citizenship.'"It might be worth your time to reread that post, because I said a lot more than what is quoted above. But I wanted to bring this back up in light of the controversy in Indiana and some other states.
Indiana passed a state law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which some took as being discriminatory. Never mind that an identical law exists at the federal level, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.
The law (both the state law and the federal law, in fact), in essence, protects businesses and individuals from being compelled (forced) by the government to do something that violates their religious beliefs.
|Stallion Springs Community Church - Stallion Springs, California|
James Madison's original text is important because it shows the intended meaning of the shorter text that was later adapted. Bill Clinton reaffirmed that original intent by signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993 (it was passed almost unanimously by both the house and senate). Clinton said, "We all have a shared desire here to protect perhaps the most precious of all American liberties--religious freedom." He added, "The free exercise of religion has been called the first freedom--that which originally sparked the full range of the Bill of Rights."
What does this all have to do with two photographers in New Mexico? The federal law only applies to the federal government. The federal government cannot force those two photographers to do something that violates their religion. Their civil liberties are protected. However, state governments are not bound by this law. To provide the same religious civil liberties, states must have similar laws or wording in their state constitutions. Indiana became one of about 20 states to put a law in the books ensuring that the rights of religious people are not infringed.
If you are a photographer and you are religious, it is in your interest to know if the state you live in (or do business in) has a law like Indiana. If not, you could end up like those two photographers in New Mexico: shut down by the state.
|The Desert Cross - Mojave, California|
I want to make it clear: I'm not suggesting that anyone discriminate against anyone. I'm not "homophobic" or prejudice, so don't even go there. This is not about me. I know there are some boiling with anger over what I just wrote. Just calm down.
Laws that protect the civil liberties of religious people are not infringing on the civil liberties of others. Those suggesting that have not logically considered this matter enough. Nowhere in the Constitution is one given the right to force another to do something that they believe is against their religious convictions.
The Indiana (and federal) law can be best metaphorically described as a shield and not a sword. The law is designed to protect, and it does not give anyone the right to harm. If someone is "harmed" by the law (such as a photographer refusing to provide someone a service due to religious reasons), it is only because the "victim" was attempting to violate the religious liberties of another. This would be the "flip side" of the coin.
|Two White Crosses - Rosamond, California|
So a lot of what's been said about the Indiana law simply isn't true. A lot has been exaggerated, or told out of context. It's not anything to be upset about.
For photographers, the law is good. Without the law you do not have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. If someone asks you to photograph something, no matter how much you may disagree with it, and no matter how much it may be a violation of your religious views, you have to do it. If you refuse, someone may sue you and the government may compel you to do it (or put you out of business if you still refuse). And you never know what someone may ask you to photograph. Think beyond homosexual weddings (which was the New Mexico example). Certainly there are people with ideas that are way out there--ideas that you may have moral objections to.
I'm hoping that more states adopt laws similar to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I would certainly hate to find myself in a situation similar to those two photographers in New Mexico.