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Christian Photographer Fights Back Against VA Law That Violates His Rights

Christian professionals know that when their local government passes an ordinance that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and “gender identity” and prohibit business owners from sharing their beliefs about marriage, they are the targets.

That’s why some of these professionals file what’s known as pre-enforcement challenges. Christian business owners, particularly those who photograph weddings, create wedding invitations, and bake wedding cakes, know it’s only a matter of time before someone asks them to provide services for a same-sex “wedding.” When they decline for religious reasons, they face prosecution.

Christian business owners, especially those who consider themselves artists, don’t want to use their artistic talents to promote a message they oppose. Baker Jack Phillips made this argument when two homosexuals sued him after he refused to make a customized cake for their “wedding,” although they were free to buy any cake on the shelf. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor.

One Christian photographer recently filed a pre-enforcement challenge against the government over the Virginia Values Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and “gender identity.” Photographer Bob Updegrove knows he could face lawsuits if he refuses to photograph homosexual “weddings” or shares on his business website why he won’t provide these services — that he believes marriage is the union between one man and one woman.

According to Updegrove’s legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), he faces up to $50,000 the first time and $100,000 per additional violation.

“Photographers, like all other Americans, should be free to peacefully live, work, and create art that’s consistent with their deeply held beliefs—without the fear of government punishment,” ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Griggs said. “Because of the state’s interpretation of its law, photographers like Bob face an impossible choice: violate the law and risk bankruptcy, promote views against their faith, or close down. Virginia has a long and important history of protecting constitutional freedoms, and this kind of government hostility toward people of faith has no place in a free society.”

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