Christian Photographer Settles Lawsuit Against Virginia — The Government Will Leave Him Alone to Run His Business According to His Faith

Bob Updegrove, a Christian and a professional photographer in Virginia, filed a pre-enforcement challenge in 2020 to stop a law called the Virginia Values Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and “gender identity.”

Like web designer and blogger Lorie Smith in Colorado, Updegrove wasn’t facing prosecution but knew it was a matter of time before someone filed a complaint against him. He faced a fine of up to $50,000 for the first violation and $100,000 per additional violation.

Because of his religious beliefs, Updegrove did not want to provide services that would conflict with his faith. Photographing homosexual “weddings” is one of those services. He believes what the Bible teaches about marriage and sexuality: marriage is the God-ordained union between one man and one woman, and homosexuality is a sin.

The law also would have barred Updegrove from explaining why he declined to provide certain services if the reason was religious.

Alliance Defending Freedom, Updegrove’s legal counsel, announced that the parties to the lawsuit have reached a settlement.

As part of the settlement, Virginia officials acknowledged that the Constitution protects Updegrove’s right to create wedding photography consistent with his beliefs, and that he is free to communicate his business policy regarding his religious beliefs on marriage.

Virginia will leave Updegrove alone.

“This victory for Bob underscores how the 303 Creative decision will protect countless Americans from government censorship and coercion,” said attorney Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse. “The U.S. Constitution protects his freedom to express his views as he continues to serve clients of all backgrounds and beliefs.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lorie Smith’s favor in June. Smith, who owns web design company 303 Creative, filed a pre-enforcement challenge against a Colorado law that would compel her to provide services for homosexual “weddings” if she did the same for weddings, and she could not explain her religious beliefs on her web site.

The court ruled 6-3 that these requirements would violate Smith’s freedom of speech.

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