It may be a case involving filmmakers in Minnesota, but their attorney contends that people from every state should be paying close attention to it.
Last month, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court should not have dismissed a lawsuit challenging Minnesota’s claim that it can control artistic expression by forcing creative professionals, including a pair of Minnesota filmmakers, to produce custom work promoting messages that contract their core beliefs. The filmmakers, Carl and Angel Larsen, owners of Telescope Media Group in St. Cloud, make wedding videos. The Larsens also have a traditional view of marriage: one man and one woman.
“This is about everybody’s First Amendment rights: Does the government have the power to force you to express messages that violate your deepest convictions?” explains attorney Jeremy Tedesco of Alliance Defending Freedom, the religious liberty law firm defending the Larsens. “The Eighth Circuit issues rulings that bind many states in the Midwest, so there’s already many states involved – but the bottom line is these decisions reverberate across the country and affect everybody’s rights.”
According to Tedesco, it appears Minnesota is going to appeal to the entire Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. That means asking every judge on the court to rehear the case.
“That brief is due in the next few weeks in that motion,” says Tedesco. “Once the Eighth Circuit decides what to do in relationship to that, there will be another decision point for Minnesota: Do they take it to the U.S. Supreme Court? Or does the case go back down to the district court?”
In its decision last month, the Eighth Circuit told the lower court to rehear the request for a preliminary injunction from Carl and Angel Larsen.
“I would just add that the court essentially ruled that the state’s interpretation of its law violated Carl and Angel’s free-speech rights,” says Tedesco. “The state can’t force them to create films that violate their beliefs about marriage, and so at this point it’s going to be very difficult for the district court to not at least grant a preliminary injunction. Of course, time will tell how the case plays out.”
This was a pre-emptive challenge against Minnesota.
“The state made it clear multiple times in public and official communications that creative professionals would be found in violation of the law if they declined to create films that violated their beliefs about marriage, including films celebrating same-sex wedding ceremonies,” Tedesco stresses. “So, the Larsens went to court and asked the court to say that Minnesota’s interpretation and threatened enforcement of the law violated their First Amendment rights.”