Elaine Huguenin is no cultural warrior. She is merely a photographer who holds Christian beliefs. Huguenin runs Elane Photography with her husband and, in 2008, turned down a job to photograph Vanessa Willock’s same-sex commitment ceremony. And then all hell broke loose.
Willock is a Compliance Representative with the New Mexico Office of Equal Opportunity, which monitors and scrutinizes sexual harassment and discrimination claims. Naturally, Huguenin’s refusal to shoot her ceremony ruffled Willock’s feathers and she filed suit against Elane Photography in 2008. The New Mexico Human Rights Commission, (which sounds more like a tribunal in The Hague then an embodiment of political correctness in the Southwest), ruled that Elane Photography was in violation of state anti-discrimination law, and she was forced to pay the legal fees associated with the case- a whopping $6,637.94!
Of course, no self-respecting person would pay such a fine for exercising her principles without first appealing the Draconian ruling. Earlier this month, the New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld the ruling and established the precedent that artists such as photographers, painters, writers and such are to be compelled to facilitate that which they may find morally abhorrent.
As pointed out in the National Review, the ruling has far-reaching implications as it, effectively, forces not merely the acceptance of differing moral perspectives, but the celebration of alternative lifestyles.
While the ruling is troubling enough in that it attempts to force a business owner to accept clients, even at the expense of their own moral code, it is further outrageous in the precedent it sets. The writer, the painter, the photographer and other assorted peddlers of creation get paid to express. They express their interpretation of the client’s vision. My wife and I discussed what we wanted in our wedding photography, and our pictures turned out wonderfully because the photographer was invested in our day. Do we really want the Christian woman photographing the homosexual commitment ceremony, though she finds it morally wrong? Should I be forced to write the newsletter for the Communist Party of America (or even worse, Newsweek)? What about a Jewish web page designer forced to create a website for the Nazi Party of America? The examples of ways in which this precedent can spell ruin for our society’s moral code is endless.
Furthermore, the nature of liberal “tolerance” in America is laughable. Three years ago, the mother of Adolf Hitler Campbell (no relation to this author), a three year old boy in New Jersey, was denied a birthday cake with his name on it at ShopRite. Though Wal-Mart eventually made the cake for him, the family was under strict scrutiny by state authorities and the family of five made national headlines. Finally, despite no allegations of neglect or abuse, all three of the children (one, of which, is named JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell) were removed by child protective services.
Where were the courts then? As the Campbell parents fought to get their children back, the onus was upon them to prove that they weren’t evil racists. Heath Campbell, the father of the three children, said, “Actually, the judge and DYFS told us that there was no evidence of abuse and that it was the names. They were taken over the children’s names.” There have been no updates since 2011 and it is unclear as to whether or not the children have been returned.
Companies are constantly taking liberal stances and nobody hauls them into court. This week, Oreo unveiled a cookie ad featuring a rainbow-filled Oreo cookie to promote its support for homosexuals. While many may not mind the pushing of the agenda, many, like myself, prefer our cookies apolitical. While Kraft foods promotes a political agenda to attract business, Elane Photography cannot decline business based on political or moral considerations. Such hypocrisy is as ridiculous as it is maddening.
Tolerance is not the forcing of others to believe as you believe. That is fascism. Tolerance means accepting something that you do not, necessarily, like. More than simply roll our eyes at this kind of fascism, we must be willing to meet it head-on whenever we see it in our daily lives. If you have the means, give to causes that foster freedom. If you encounter fascism posturing as tolerance, point out the difference to the offender and don’t be afraid to stand your ground, just as Elaine Huguenin has done. That is the only way to combat real intolerance on any meaningful level.
Huguenin is, of course, appealing the decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court and has retained the help of the Alliance Defense Fund, a group dedicated to the legal protection of religious principles. To aid in her defense, or to learn more about the ADF, please visit this site.