“Right to a Child for All Women”: The ECHR’s Slippery Slope

On an unprecedented scale, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has decided to judge a series of patch-up reproduction cases. At issue: the complete separation between sex, procreation and parenthood; and the erasure of the biological family as a reference of social norms.

These cases show how the desire to have a child can lead to madness; and how that madness can become reality thanks to technic. Now a reality, it is now attacking the legal norms to transform this desire into rights and to reshape, through this, social reality to its image, in the illusory hope to become normal itself.

The ECLJ is fighting back both in Strasbourg, at the European Court of Human Rights, and in Geneva, at the United Nations. Today, at the Human Rights Council, we delivered a powerfull statement with the President of the association: “The Voice of the Fatherless“.
Here is the declaration where we denounced the French bill of law allowing for single and lesbian women to have children through Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). Such procedures deprive the child of his or her father and of his or her filiation.

Emmanuel Le Pargneux, The Voice of the Fatherless / The ECLJ
Here is a summary of the ECHR cases and the problems they pose.


The desire to have a child with a dead person

A French woman complains about the refusal of the French authorities to transfer the frozen sperm of her dead partner to a Spanish hospital where she would be able to have a post mortem insemination. She thus contests the French law which imposes that the man and the woman forming the couple wishing to resort to a medically assisted procreation be “alive” and that the conservation of the gametes be stopped at the death of the person. (V. D. v. France).


The desire of a mother to be the father of the child

In another case, the real mother of a child conceived with an anonymous sperm donation complains of not appearing as “father” on the birth certificate, on the grounds that, being a transsexual, she had already got to be identified as “man” on her own civil status. She sees being described as a “mother” as a violation of her own rights and those of the child in that it “fundamentally contradicted their perception of their relationship” and compel them to disclose frequently the mother’s transsexuality. (O.H. and G.H. v. Germany).


The demand for a presumption of motherhood for the « wife of the mother”

Two German lesbians complain, on their own behalf and on behalf of the child, that the partner of the woman who gave birth does not benefit from a “presumption of motherhood”, unlike men in heterosexual couples who benefit from a presumption of paternity. They denounce a discrimination, even though the “wife of the mother” was able to adopt the child. The case is complicated by the fact that the child was carried by one woman and conceived with the ovum of the other and the sperm of an anonymous donor; which is forbidden in Germany. (R.F. and others v. Germany).


The desire to both be “mothers” of the same child

Two Austrian lesbians complain of appearing as “Mother / Parent” and “Father / Parent” on the birth certificate of a child conceived and carried by one of them and adopted by the other. They denounce a discrimination compared to heterosexual parents in that these mentions suggest that the woman mentioned as “Father / Parent” is not the mother of the child. They each want to be “mother” or “parent” on the child’s birth certificate in order to erase any biological differentiation (S.W. and Others v. Austria).


The obligation for states to establish “homoparenthood”

Two other cases seek to force Poland to register same-sex persons as parents of the same child. In one case, the child was conceived with ART for the benefit of an Anglo-Polish couple of women living in the UK. In the other case, twins were conceived through surrogacy in the United States for the benefit of an Israeli-Polish couple of men living in Israel. They denounce Poland’s refusal to transcribe the children’s foreign birth certificates, believing that this decision violates their “right to be considered as parents” and affects the nationality and inheritance rights of the children. They also denounce a discrimination on the grounds of their homosexuality (A.D.-K. and Schlittner-Hay v. Poland cases).


The desire to be declared mother of a child conceived and carried by other women

In three other cases, couples complain of France’s refusal to recognize as mothers, on the grounds that they have not given birth, women who bought children born to surrogates abroad. They ask the ECHR to condemn France to transcribe in full on the registers of civil status the birth certificates established abroad by virtue of surrogacy agreements, even though this practice is prohibited in France and that no biological link is established between the children and the buying women (Braun, Saenz and Saenz Cortes, and Maillard v. France cases).


These cases are symptomatic of categorical claims of patch-up reproduction

  • The applicants contest the fact that law still be based on the imitation of human nature, which, itself, is biologically completely heterosexual. They want to dispose of filiation and the identity of the children;
  • They completely erase the surrogate mother as well as the father who becomes a mere source of sperm, while, at the same time, boasting about their own genetic link with the children, when appropriate;
  • They pretend to act in the name and best interests of the children, all the while ignoring, or even despising, the right and interests of the latter to know their biological parents and to be raised by them (CRC, art. 7);
  • They place society before a fait accompli and demand it to regularize a situation that they themselves provoked by going abroad to circumvent interdictions made in their respective countries;
  • They demand the European judges to condemn national legal choices.


A sequence of jurisdictions

These requests seem insane, but they are in line with previous judgments of the ECHR. Thus, it is because the sex change in the civil status is no longer subordinated to a morphological change that a mother can claim to be a father (A.P., Garçon and Nicot v. France). It is because the ECHR condemned Austria in 2013 to legalize the possibility of adopting the same-sex partner’s child that Austrian women now claim to be both “mothers” (X and Others v. Austria). Similarly, it is because the ECHR condemned France in 2014 to transcribe the paternal filiation of children born of surrogacy abroad that the “intended mother” now claims the same right for herself (Mennesson v. France).

Decision after decision, there is indeed a ripple effect, a “slippery slope”, following an inclination that the Court seems to adjust at discretion according to the time, as it is surprising that all these cases – some of which are quite old – be made public at the same time. In terms of surrogacy, the President of the ECHR acknowledged in 2015 that the liberalization of this practice operates at a “pace imposed by our Court”. Other cases will follow, each time more shocking, such as “multi-parenthood” cases in which three, or more, adults will demand to be “recognized parents” of the same child. Likewise, there will be no serious reason to oppose the liberalization of polygamy and polyandry.

In fact, once the law breaks off from natural reality in favour of mere self-determination, nothing can stop it. And it becomes very difficult for the judge to justify a limitation to individual desires. This is explained firstly by the fact that Western society has lost the sense of nature and the common good which alone could justify a limitation to individual desires. Indeed, nature, by conditioning us, sets a limit to our desires, and the common good determines its accuracy. This is also explained by the fact that human rights have been designed to defend individuals from social oppression, to the point of making it a weapon against all social norms. But without reference to the common good and to nature, these norms are gradually, and inevitably, dissolved in private life. Human rights thus become the vehicle of self-assertion and selfishness.

A century ago, already, proponents of artificial reproductive control techniques believed that separating procreation from sexuality would be a decisive step forward in the process of evolution of humanity. They thought that man would thus gain the power to be rationally and responsibly engendered and would no longer be the plaything of a blind nature. They believed that man would be wiser and more ingenious than nature, that he might attain a higher degree of perfection and happiness, and that he could “spiritualize” sexuality. That was the ambition. A presumptuous ambition when we observe today its fruits: the limitless madness of procreative patch-up, eugenics, and the massive use of pornography and abortion … Nature is much wiser than us.

The technical mastering of nature should not exempt us from respecting its laws. Nature, of course, is a good mother, patient and silent; but it is rightly said that it never forgives; and it is always in pain that we are reminded of it.

Thus, it is the pain of children born of an anonymous donation of sperm which reminds us today of our natural need to fully know our identity, including in its physical and filial dimension;

It is also the pain of children born of surrogacy and anonymous-ART and of their “biological” parents, faced with the legal prohibition to establish their filiation, which reminds us of the importance of blood ties;

It is also the pain of surrogate mothers who do not want to give up their children, which reminds us of the importance of motherhood;

Likewise, it is the pain of children born of reproductive and family patch-ups that reminds us of the natural need and right to be loved and raised by one’s true parents in a balanced family.


If our society is no longer able to see the injustice of these situations, at least perhaps we will be sensitive to the suffering they cause.

And if we remain insensitive to this suffering, we will then face the violence it will not fail to engender in turn.

To give in to the demands of procreative patch-up is cowardice before our responsibility to protect future generations.


Source: mailchi.mp

Long read: The forgotten faces and hidden history of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

No case highlights the fervour and frustration associated with blasphemy more than that of Asia Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi), the Pakistani Christian woman who was falsely accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 2010.

Throughout Bibi’s protracted legal case, the worst instincts of certain sections of Pakistani society were brought to the fore and played out in national and international media as Islamist groups staged violent demonstrations calling for her execution on multiple occasions, even after her conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2018. Following a nine-year ordeal, Asia Bibi and her family were eventually taken to Canada to start a new life, but for many other victims their fate is less hopeful, and they are left languishing under long jail sentences, prolonged when cases are adjourned without  hearing.

Pakistan’s blasphemy legislation is crude in its application and consequence. The laws were first introduced to British administered India in 1860 to prevent religious communalism and intra-religious conflict. They were codified within the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to protect places of worship and sacred objects from defilement (Section 295); religious assemblies from disturbance (Section 296); funeral remains and burial sites from malicious trespass (Section 297); and religious feelings of any person from deliberate insult (Section 298). Pakistan inherited the laws after Partition, which separated the Indian sub-continent to create India and Pakistan in 1947.

In 1980, the blasphemy laws were expanded to criminalise making derogatory remarks against Islamic personages. In 1982, Section 295-B was added, criminalising the desecration of the Qur’an. Section 295-C was added in 1986, which made derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad a criminal offence punishable by death or life imprisonment.

From the introduction of the laws in 1927 until 1986, fourteen blasphemy cases were reported, but by 2017 the number had increased to over 1,500.

The “weaponisation” of blasphemy

The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), a human rights organisation based in Pakistan, found that a total of 776 Muslims, 505 Ahmadis, 229 Christians and 30 Hindus were accused under the blasphemy laws between 1987 and 2018.

What is clear is that the blasphemy laws are not a deterrent. They have become a weapon of revenge used indiscriminately against Muslims and non-Muslims in situations that arise due to petty grievances, jealousy and business rivalry, under the guise of preventing insults to religion.

The former Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was a vocal critic of the blasphemy laws.  In 2011 he said: “The blasphemy law is not a God-made law. It’s a man-made law… it’s a law which gives an excuse to extremists and reactionaries to target weak people and minorities.”

Taseer was killed by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, in 2011. During Qadri’s trial for Taseer’s murder, the Supreme Court noted that “The majority of blasphemy cases are based on false accusations stemming from property issues or other personal or family vendettas rather than genuine instances of blasphemy, and they inevitably lead to mob violence against the entire community.”

A few months after Taseer’s murder, Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities, who advocated for reform of the blasphemy laws was assassinated in an attack claimed by the Taliban.

The accusation is a punishment in itself

The impact of a false accusation is like a death knell with far reaching consequences for the accused and their families. In recent decades there have been numerous cases of accusations, assassinations, lynching, intimidation and censorship. In response to accusations, and due to the emotive and sensitive nature of blasphemy, violent mobs blinded by vigilante justice have forced individuals into hiding, attacked communities and burned down homes.

In 2013 Sawan Masih, a Christian from Joseph Colony in Punjab, was accused by a Muslim friend of insulting the Prophet Mohammed during a conversation. A local mosque broadcasted the accusation, prompting a 3000-strong mob to attack the Christian neighbourhood of Joseph Colony. Almost 200 homes were torched and hundreds of families were displaced.

The aftermath of the 2013 Joseph Colony riots. Photo: Saad Sarfraz Sheik

Sawan Masih was sentenced to death in 2014, he is still in prison. During his seventh appeal  which took place on 17 September 2019 in the Lahore High Court, Mr Masih’s lawyer informed CSW that the judge, Justice Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi referred the case to the Anti-Terrorism court (ATC). During proceedings his lawyer argued that the case had been referred to the ATC once before, where the presiding judge had flatly refused to it hear the case and reverted it to the high court. Justice Navqi insisted the case would have to go to the ATC and that he would only hear a high court appeal if the ATC judge again decides not to hear the case. Many blasphemy cases like Sawan Masih’s suffer delays where proceedings are repeatedly postponed or referred to the ATC and become stuck in the legal system, causing additional trauma and delaying justice for victims.

In some cases the mob is so stirred up that targets of blasphemy accusations are killed before allegations are even investigated.

Shama and Shezad Masih were a Christian couple who worked as bonded labourers in a brick kiln outside of Lahore. In November 2014 Shama Masih was falsely accused of burning pages of the Qur’an, which led to the horrific lynching of her and her husband by a violent mob before any investigation took place.

In April 2017, Mashal Khan, a student at Abdul Wali Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was brutally beaten and killed by a mob including fellow students and staff on his university campus. He had been falsely accused of posting blasphemous content online, and was murdered before the allegation was investigated. Though his death shocked the nation and reignited the debate to amend the blasphemy laws, there was no change to the legislation.

For numerous victims who are imprisoned, the judicial process can take years while they await trial. In July 2013 Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Masih, a Christian couple from Gojra, were sentenced to death under Section 295-C for sending blasphemous text messages to local cleric Muhammad Hussein. The couple are illiterate and unable to text in English; they have always maintained their innocence. Shagufta is being held in Multan’s Central Jail, where Asia Bibi was kept, while Shafqat, who is paralysed and confined to a wheelchair, is 150 miles away in the Faisalabad District Jail. Their case has suffered repeated postponements as they await an appeal in the Lahore High Court.

Such delays occur because of the palpable fear surrounding hearings. Many lawyers and judges are reluctant to take on cases due to threats, attacks, and reprisals against their families, and even targeted killings.

In 2013 Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Multan University, was charged with posting blasphemous material on Facebook. His first lawyer quit after threats from conservative colleagues. His second lawyer, human rights activist Rashid Rehman, was threatened during a hearing to drop the case by opposing lawyers. Despite Mr Rehman’s complaints to the police and the district bar association, nothing was done. He was shot dead in his office in May 2014. Mr Hafeez’s current lawyer, Asad Jamal, admits that his case has been severely hampered by repeated delays.

The politics of blasphemy

The increasing politicisation of the laws has normalised their misuse and stalled attempts to amend legislation. Playing blasphemy politics has been a useful tool for former and present governments, whose support of the laws remain unwavering. Many perceive the blasphemy laws as brutal and highly divisive, often used to victimise religious minorities and human rights activists.

Online space provides a refuge where activists can voice concerns about human rights violations and hold the government and military to account; however that space has become increasingly contested, with growing restrictions on freedom of expression and the policing of social media for content which may be deemed blasphemous.

In March 2017 former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called blasphemy an “unpardonable offence,” directing the government at the time to bring anyone responsible for sharing blasphemous content on social media to justice. This step was seen by civil society as an attempt to silence dissenting voices and compromise freedom of expression.

During his 2018 election campaign, current Prime Minister Imran Khan used the issue of blasphemy to capitalise on the vote bank of the religious right. At an address to Muslim leaders in Islamabad he proclaimed: “We are standing with Article 295c and will defend it.” This uneasy relationship between the government and it’s pandering to the religious right further complicates the issue of blasphemy.

Prime Minister Imran Khan

In a visit to Pakistan in 2012 former UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul noted: “These laws serve the vested interests of extremist religious groups and are not only contrary to the Constitution of Pakistan, but also to international human rights norms, in particular those relating to non-discrimination and freedom of expression and opinion.”

This was demonstrated when Khadim Hussain Rizvi, blasphemy proponent and the leader of the Islamist group, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), instigated protests against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Asia Bibi’s death sentence in October 2018. Rizvi called for the judges who acquitted Asia Bibi to be killed, and encouraged the army to rebel. His supporters took to the streets, blocking major roads, causing disruption and millions of pounds worth of damage. The three-day nationwide demonstrations ended when the TLP signed an agreement with the Pakistani government, which included allowing a review petition of the Supreme Court’s judgement and placing Asia Bibi on the Exit Control List, preventing her from leaving the country.

No room for reform

The space to debate the blasphemy laws has been so threatened that discussion of the laws have been suppressed. Attempts at reforms by politicians have met with little success. When Sherry Rehman, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) submitted an amendment bill in 2011, then prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, said that his government would not touch the legislation: “We are all unanimous that nobody wants to change the law.” Ms Rehman was forced to withdraw her amendments.

Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission (HRCP), and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have both proposed procedural amendments to the law, highlighting the incompatibility of the blasphemy laws with international law. In 2018 Pakistan’s Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights discussed ways to stop misuse of the laws, they recommended that anyone who falsely accuses a person of blasphemy should be awarded a similar punishment prescribed for a convict of blasphemy.

Repeated calls to amend or repeal the laws by international actors have also fallen on deaf ears. Any political intervention to reform the law risks the ire of the Islamist groups, which no government is willing to do. The mere hint of reform is usually met with violence, as typified by Asia Bibi’s case.

International condemnation of the laws from institutions like the UN Human Rights Council and United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), have had negligible impact.

Pakistan is signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), but continues to violate both agreements through its oppression of minorities. In May 2019, 51 MEPs wrote to Imran Khan asking for an end to the persecution of religious minorities and condemning the use of the blasphemy laws. The letter stated that ongoing violation of the ICCPR Convention could result in the suspension of all EU subsidies and trade preferences to Pakistan under the GSP+ preferences.

It is clear that the impetus to change the blasphemy laws must come from within Pakistan.

However, the problem goes beyond legislative reform. Even if the State were to amend or repeal discriminatory legislation, years of Islamisation under Zia-ul-Huq has institutionalised intolerance and bred radicalism.

Research by Arafat Mazhar, Director of Engage Pakistan, an NGO working on reforming the blasphemy law, makes a critical analysis of what the Islamic texts say about blasphemy in his report ‘The Untold Truth of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law’. He examines the Hanafi perspective (one of the major Islamic schools of thought and widely followed by Muslims in Pakistan) and works of classical jurists, muftis, academics and legal experts to highlight factual inaccuracies in the judicial interpretation of the law. During the 1986 debate to amend Section 295-C, only one out of the six parliamentarians, Muhammad Hamza, opposed the inclusion of the death penalty. Hamza called for a comprehensive review of the Islamic sources used to justify the death penalty by religious scholars and experts before any change in the law was passed. The other parliamentarians argued that among the entire Muslim community there was an ‘Ijma,’ i.e. consensus, and not a single dissenting opinion on the matter, and therefore no need for further debate.

Arafat Mazhar’s research found that every text used by Parliament to support claims of consensus on capital punishment for blasphemy in fact reveals a caveat that non-Muslims should not be killed for insulting the Prophet.

Changing the blasphemy laws will not happen overnight. There needs to be a considerable shift in majoritarian thinking and the extremist mind-set in certain sections of society to create a space for discussion and reduce the appetite for the blasphemy laws.

This can be achieved by implementing essential reforms to Pakistan’s biased education system which propagates intolerance towards religious minorities; building consensus from the ground through work like that of Arafat Mazhar, all supported by a government with the will and determination to address the issue.

We must not forget the plight of those who have been falsely accused of blasphemy, like Sawan Masih, Junaid Hafeez, Shagufta Kasur and Shafqat Masih. The government of Pakistan must be reminded that the blasphemy laws are wholly incompatible with Pakistan’s commitments under international law and Imran Khan’s vision of a ‘Naya Pakistan’ where religious minorities are protected and afforded equal rights under the constitution.

By CSW’s South Asia Advocacy Officer

Featured image by Saad Sarfraz Sheik

Source: forbinfull.org

34-Week-Old Aborted Baby Cries and “Comes Back to Life” as Stunned Parents Were Saying Goodbye

The parents of a baby girl who survived an abortion sued a Beijing, China hospital recently because their baby did not die.

LifeNews Note: File photo

The baby, who was a full 34-weeks gestation during the abortion, reportedly “came back to life” and began crying after she was removed from her mother’s womb, according to the Daily Star.

Now, her mother, identified only as Hu from Beijing, China, wants the hospital to pay for its mistake.

Abortions are legal for any reason up to birth in China.

In this case, the baby’s parents said they decided to have a late-term abortion after their daughter was diagnosed with a rare brain deformity called Joubert Syndrome about 26 weeks into the pregnancy. The parents said they sought a second opinion at several hospitals, but each doctor confirmed that their baby had the rare disorder.

According to the report, Hu had doctors at Peking University People’s Hospital abort her baby when she was nearly full term. The report states the doctors injected a poisonous drug called ethacridine lactate into the womb to abort the baby girl. Before removing her body, Hu said doctors checked and confirmed that the baby did not have a heartbeat.

Here’s more:

They then told Hu the medical procedure was successful.

After the procedure, Hu told doctors she wanted to say goodbye to the remains of her aborted child about 20 minutes after the operation, but was stunned when the seemingly girl cried out loud at the ceremony.

Eventually, Hu said they took their baby home alive. It is not clear if the baby girl still is alive.


In 2017, the family sued the hospital for 1.22 million yuan ($172,000) to pay for their daughter’s medical care. They lost the initial case, but the family appealed, the report continues.

The troubling case is similar to so-called “wrongful birth” lawsuits in the United States and other countries. In these cases, parents argue that they would have aborted their disabled baby if their doctor had not been negligent in diagnosing the child’s health problems or counseling them on their options before the child’s birth.

In 2013, a Washington state couple won $50 million in a lawsuit after they argued they were denied information that could have led them to abort their disabled baby, LifeNews reported. The Seattle Times reported the couple knew based on their family medical history they were at a 50-50 chance of having children suffering from a rare but debilitating genetic disorder called “unbalanced chromosome translocation,” but a genetic test failed to detect the disorder in their unborn baby.

In 2014, an Illinois mother also sued her doctor, claiming that he botched her tubal ligation and it led to the birth of her daughter who has sickle cell disease.

Then, in 2018, a woman in Ireland who said she would have aborted her baby if she had known about the child’s disability was awarded €1.8 million (about $2.1 million).

Put simply, these cases are about parents discriminating against their own children. Society tells parents that discrimination against people with disabilities is ok — even compassionate  — as long as that person is not yet born. Some even argue that unborn babies with disabilities are better off dead than alive. But the truth is that every human life is valuable, no matter what their abilities. It’s time for society to step up and protect every human being from discrimination, not just those who are born.

Source: lifenews.com

Ruling in Marriage and Filmmaking Case a Victory for Religious Freedom


ADF Media
ADF Media

The Story: A recent federal appeals court ruling is a significant victory for free speech and religious freedom.

The Background: Carl and Angel Larsen are professional storytellers who use film and their artistic abilities to help their clients tell their own stories. The Larsens wanted to bring their talents to the wedding industry and use their gifts to promote their religious beliefs about marriage—but Minnesota’s government refused to let them to do so.

According to state officials, a Minnesota law mandates that if the Larsens tell stories that are consistent with their beliefs about marriage (i.e., that marriage is between a man and a woman), then they must tell marriage stories that violate their beliefs as well (e.g., that same-sex couples can be legitimately married). If they decline to do so, the Larsens would face steep fines and even up to 90 days in jail.

The couple has challenged the law in federal court, but their case—Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey—was initially dismissed.

Late last month the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court should not have dismissed the lawsuit. The court reinstated the free speech and free exercise of religion claims of the lawsuit, and ordered the district court to consider whether the Larsens are entitled to a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the law against them.

Why It Matters: Can Minnesota require Christians like the Larsens to produce videos of same-sex weddings, even if the message would conflict with their own beliefs? “The district court concluded that it could and dismissed the Larsens’ constitutional challenge to Minnesota’s antidiscrimination law,” the Eighth Circuit Court said. “Because the First Amendment allows the Larsens to choose when to speak and what to say, we reverse the dismissal of two of their claims and remand with instructions to consider whether they are entitled to a preliminary injunction.”

As the court opinion notes, the Larsens “gladly work with all people—regardless of their race, sexual orientation, sex, religious beliefs, or any other classification.” But because they “are Christians who believe that God has called them to use their talents and their company to . . . honor God,” the Larsens decline any requests for their services that conflict with their religious beliefs. This includes any that, in their view, “contradict biblical truth; promote sexual immorality; support the destruction of unborn children; promote racism or racial division; incite violence; degrade women; or promote any conception of marriage other than as a lifelong institution between one man and one woman.”

But according to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), a decision to produce anywedding videos requires the Larsens to make them for everyone, regardless of the Larsens’ beliefs and the message they wish to convey. The MHRA also mandates that wedding videos must depict same- and opposite-sex weddings in an equally “positive” light.

The appeals court correctly pointed out that the Larsens’ videos are a form of speech and are thus entitled to First Amendment protection. The court also clarified that “regulating speech because it is discriminatory or offensive is not a compelling state interest, however hurtful the speech may be.” The effect of the Minnesota law would also have broad effects on other forms of speech and conduct, the court says:

Indeed, if Minnesota were correct, there is no reason it would have to stop with the Larsens. In theory, it could use the [Minnesota Human Rights Act] to require a Muslim tattoo artist to inscribe “My religion is the only true religion” on the body of a Christian if he or she would do the same for a fellow Muslim, or it could demand that an atheist musician perform at an evangelical church service. In fact, if Minnesota were to do what other jurisdictions have done and declare political affiliation or ideology to be a protected characteristic, then it could force a Democratic speechwriter to provide the same services to a Republican, or it could require a professional entertainer to perform at rallies for both the Republican and Democratic candidates for the same office.

“This is a significant win,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Jeremy Tedesco said, who argued the case before the Eighth Circuit in October 2018. “The government shouldn’t threaten filmmakers with fines and jail time to force them to create films that violate their beliefs.”

The Larsens are also pleased to hear they won’t be forced to make films that express messages in conflict with their core beliefs. “Angel and I serve everyone. We just can’t produce films promoting every message,” Carl Larsen said following the court’s decision. “We are thankful the court recognized that government officials can’t force religious believers to violate their beliefs to pursue their passion. This is a win for everyone, regardless of your beliefs.”

Source: thegospelcoalition.org