Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America celebrate another free speech victory coming out of the Supreme Court as it ruled against a Minnesota law that banned political apparel at the polls. They also remain confused at President Donald Trump’s praise for the murderous North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un. And they look at the initial details of the long-anticipated Inspector’s General report about Comey, Lynch, and the Hillary Clinton private server investigation.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America praise the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold an Ohio law that cuts inactive voters from the rolls if they haven’t voted in the past six years or asked the state to keep them on. They also blast a self-described intersectional, Muslim feminist, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Keith Ellison’s Minnesota congressional seat, over her ugly tweet about Israel. And they unload on the New York Times for their sudden embrace of Mitt Romney.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America welcome the news that outspoken liberal Rep. Keith Ellison is leaving the House of Representatives to run for statewide office in Minnesota, a venture they sincerely hope ends in failure. They also lament that Medicare and Social Security are getting closer to insolvency and neither lawmakers nor most Americans seem all that concerned about it. They also highlight yet another lie perpetrated by the Obama administration in getting the Iran nuclear deal done, this time allowing Iran access to U.S. banks while adamantly telling lawmakers it would not do so.
The lawyers for the Christian owners of a Minnesota video services company are firing back after a federal judge there called the couple’s efforts to limit their wedding work to heterosexual couples “akin to a ‘White Applicants Only’ sign.”
Carl and Angel Larsen operate Telescope Media, a video business that the Larsens want to include wedding videos. But they have a problem in the recently amended Minnesota Human Rights Act, which forbids businesses to treat people differently based upon “race, color, national origin, sex, disability (or) sexual orientation.”
Violation of the Human Rights Act could result in fines as high as $25,000 per violation.
The Larsens launched a pre-emptive lawsuit that was rejected last week by federal Judge John Tunheim, who wrote that the effort by the Larsens to film weddings but decline requests to video same-sex ceremonies was “akin to a ‘White Applicants Only’ sign.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF, is representing the Larsens. Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs says Judge Tunheim’s rationale is way off base.
“That comparison is entirely false. The Larsens do not discriminate based off of any status. They are willing to serve all people, including people of all different sexual orientations. They just can’t promote messages they disagree with and events they disagree with. That’s a common sense distinction,” said Scruggs.
He says the judge’s disturbing language did not stop there.
“The court acknowledged that this law was raising first amendment concerns yet said that was only an “incidental burden” on the Larsens first amendment rights, when they are compelled to create and promote videos of a same-sex wedding ceremony,” said Scruggs.
“That is a direct assault on the first amendment. We’re hopeful that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the appellate court, will be receptive of our arguments to protect the Larsens’ rights,” said Scruggs.
Scruggs says a bedrock American constitutional principle is at stake here.
“All Americans should have the right to choose what messages they promote or the messages they don’t promote. It is a great burden on our clients’ freedoms for the state to come in and say, ‘You’ve got to create from scratch a video that promotes and honors a same-sex wedding ceremony,” said Scruggs.
In just over two years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled there was a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Scruggs says states are clearly putting Christians on the defensive – in this case as well as the legal battles over bakers, florists, and other business owners often dealing with weddings.
“What you see in all these cases is states using these laws really to attack and restrict the rights of Christians to choose the messages they can and cannot promote,” said Scruggs.
“All these laws are telling people essentially to either toe the line or get out of the marketplace. Literally, Christians are being excluded from the marketplace because they can’t in good faith promote a message they disagree with,” said Scruggs.
He says that leaves Christians in a no-win situation.
“We represent people all over the country who are literally facing the choice of closing their business or giving up their religious beliefs about marriage,” said Scruggs.
As the legal battle proceeds, Scruggs says precedent is on the side of his clients.
“The Supreme Court had held that these public accommodation laws cannot compel speakers to voice messages they disagree with. It really runs right in line with that,” said Scruggs.
Among ADF’s clients is Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who is at the center of oral arguments at the Supreme Court later this year. While Scruggs says all of these cases have different wrinkles, the precedent set in the Masterpiece case will have a huge impact on all the others.
“It is likely that whatever the Supreme Court rules in Masterpiece will have a large impact, even if it’s maybe not a decisive impact but a large impact, on how these cases [proceed]. There is a lot of attention on the Masterpiece ruling, and for good reason,” said Scruggs.
No date has been set for oral arguments in that case, but Scruggs suspects they will be scheduled for sometime in November.
A Christian couple looking to add wedding videos to their business repertoire is suing the state of Minnesota after official there made it clear that their laws require anyone working as a wedding vendor to accommodate same-sex couples.
Carl and Angel Larsen operate Telescope Media Group. In a statement provided by their attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom, the Larsens contend their business “exists to tell great stories that honor God.”
It also points out the couple is expanding into wedding video services to “reanimate the hearts and minds of people about the goodness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
But the state of Minnesota is placing a major hurdle in front of their business plans.
“They’re unable to do so because the state says if they do them for marriages that are consistent with their beliefs – marriages between a man and a woman – they have to do them on behalf of same-sex marriages as well,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco, who is lead counsel for Telescope Media Group in this case.
The state is relying on an updated version of it’s Human Rights Act to force vendors into accepting clients for all legal forms.
“The law bars discrimination on a whole bunch of different categories and the state has added sexual orientation to the law. But [the state] has also announced that it interprets the law to require people in the wedding industry to promote concepts of marriage, including same-sex marriage, that they disagree with, even if that violate their religious beliefs,” said Tedesco.
“The state has put that on official websites. They’ve announced that in various different places. They’ve basically put people on notice. They’re looking out for faithful Christians in the wedding industry, and they’re going to prosecute them if they act in a manner that’s consistent with their beliefs when it comes to marriage,” said Tedesco.
Punishment for wedding vendors refusing to accept same-sex clients can be up to 90 days in jail and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
Tedesco says a pre-emptive lawsuit was clearly needed.
“No one in their right mind , when 90 days in jail is on the line and the state is saying the exercise of your first amendment rights could wind you up in jail is going to exercise their rights. They chilled their expression. They go to court to try to get a judgment from the court before that even happens,” said Tedesco.
“Rather than take that risk, Carl and Angel filed a lawsuit to try to get the court to say that it was unlawful for the state to even apply the law to force them to say things they don’t want to say through their films,” said Tedesco.
Tedesco says the Minnesota Human Rights Act is a blatant violation of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“These kind of pre-enforcement challenges are something that’s been used for years in the civil rights context,” he said.
“When laws like this go on the books, the state is saying, ‘We’re going to apply this to expression,’ the courts are very concerned and they’ve said many times in opinions they’ve issued in this area that people will respond to those laws simply by stopping their speech, chilling their expression. Then everybody loses,” said Tedesco.
Right now the court is weighing competing motions. Officials from Minnesota are asking for the case to be dismissed. The Larsens are asking to be able to video wedding of their choice until the issue is resolved in court.
Tedesco says Minnesota is among a growing number of states being pressured by liberal politicians and activists to forbid vendors from acting on their consciences.
“There are activists on the left that are pushing very, very hard for these same kind of laws to be adopted in states that don’t have them. There’s at least 20 states that have them right now and they want all 50 states to have them. They want the federal government to have them,” said Tedesco.
“Those activists say there are no compromises. You have to comply with the law. Speech is not a defense. Your speech can be compelled. You can be forced to speak and act in ways that are completely inconsistent with your core beliefs,” said Tedesco.
“This is very problematic in the marriage context right now. These laws adding sexual orientation to non-discrimination laws are the tools the other side uses to coerce uniformity of thought and belief when it comes to the marriage institution,” he said.