Department of Justice Stands With a Christian Photographer Fighting to Protect Her Religious Freedom

A Christian photographer in Kentucky just got some support from the country’s top law enforcement agency.

Chelsey Nelson filed a lawsuit against the city of Louisville to protect her right to decline to provide services that would violate her First Amendment rights. She believes the government would use a so-called non-discrimination law to penalize her if she were to refuse to use her artistic talents for homosexual “weddings.”

Alliance Defending Freedom, Nelson’s legal counsel, announced that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a statement of interest in the case. From the statement (PDF):

The central question presented in this case is whether the government can compel a wedding photographer to photograph, provide photography editing services for, and blog about weddings of which she does not approve, and does not wish to photograph or to promote. The answer is no. The Supreme Court has made plain that the government cannot “[c]ompel[] individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable.” Janus v. Am. Fed’n of State, Cnty. & Mun. Emps., Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448, 2463 (2018).

The DOJ cited the Masterpiece Cakeshop (2018) case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a Christian baker’s favor. The court contended that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission treated Jack Phillips unfairly and his religious beliefs with contempt when it ruled that he’d discriminated against two homosexuals when he declined to bake a custom cake for their “wedding.”

“Every American, including photographers and writers like Chelsey Nelson, should be free to peacefully live and work according to their faith without fear of unjust punishment by the government,” ADF attorney Jonathan Scruggs said in a statement. “We appreciate the DOJ’s support of that principle in its statement of interest filed today. Chelsey serves all people. But the Louisville government is trying to compel Chelsey’s speech, force her participation in ceremonies she objects to, and eliminate her editorial control over her photographs and blogs.”

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