November 21, 2019 - Thursday
Photographer's Case Puts Religious Freedom in Focus
November 21, 2019
"My highest aim in life is to honor God -- and that informs everything I do, business included." For Kentucky photographer Chelsey Nelson, her work is personal. "When I look back on my life when I'm older, I want to be able to say that I stayed true to this goal." Unfortunately for Chelsey, the city of Louisville is doing everything they can to elbow Christians like her out of the market. But if they thought that would be easy, they're about to find out how wrong they are.
Like the brave owners of Brush & Nib Studio, Chelsey isn't waiting for the extremists to come after her. She's going after their law -- in court. "We don't force LGBT web designers to create content condemning same-sex marriage for a church," her suit states. "Or force Muslim printers to design anti-Islam flyers for a synagogue. The First Amendment protects these speakers' freedom. Louisville should not take the same freedom away from Chelsey just because she wants to speak in favor of one particular view on marriage."
For Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who's fought to protect other small businesses from this kind of coercion, has a good case against the city. Like so many other Christian vendors, Chelsey explains that she "serve[s] everyone regardless of who they are. I just don't photograph every wedding requested of me." And that's her right. One that an overwhelming majority of Americans support.
In a new nationwide poll by Becket, nearly 90 percent of Americans said people like Chelsey "should be able to choose their faith practice without facing discrimination or harm." Another 76 percent agree with the Trump administration, whose new HHS rules give the medical industry the freedom to say no to procedures that run counter to their convictions. More than three-quarters "said professionals should have the freedom not to participate in actions or work that violates sincere religious beliefs."
When the organization unveiled its new 2019 Religious Freedom Index down the street in Washington, D.C., Becket's Caleb Lyman made a good point when he said, "[Religious freedom] could be an area where Americans are more united than divided." Although the number of people who support the government's decision to use religious symbols or language and displays in public displays sagged a little bit, it still has a lot more support than censorship at 56 percent.
Another interesting part of the survey challenges the idea that young people are less and less interested in religious freedom. "I do think that there is an assumption that people who are millennials don't care about God or faith, and that's not necessarily the case," Adelle Banks pointed out. Rather, she said, they see their friends "like the United Nations." Generation Z, who's already surprised the country with their more conservative views on LGBT issues, also seems to embrace our First Freedom more than their great-grandparents. Fifty-two percent of the kids born between 1996 and 2010 support coworkers wearing religious clothing or refusing to work certain days of the week -- compared to just 31 percent of the Silent Generation (born between the 1920s and 1945).
"We count on the narrative that young people are more progressive and tolerant," the Harris Poll's John Gerzema has said. But maybe, after years of watching this vocal minority push around Christians and refuse to tolerate other viewpoints, this group of young people has finally had enough. The radical Left may have finally pushed too hard -- and Generation Z is learning from brave people like Chelsey Nelson: it's time to push back.
For more on how religious liberty is winning, check out this powerful panel from last month's Values Voter Summit, featuring heroes like Lt. Colonel Leland Bohannon, Brush & Nib's Joanna Duka, and West Michigan Beef's Don Vander Boon.
Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.