Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Description:  The Minnesota Human Rights Act forces Carl and Angel Larsen and their company, Telescope Media Group, to use their filmmaking talents to promote same-sex marriages if they produce films that celebrate marriage between one man and one woman.

10 states among those expressing support for artistic freedom of Minnesota filmmakers

Briefs supporting owners of Telescope Media Group filed with 8th Circuit
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

ST. LOUIS – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit has received several friend-of-the-court briefs, including one filed by 10 states, in support of the artistic freedom of a pair of Minnesota filmmakers. The filmmakers’ lawsuit, filed through their Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, challenges a state law that allows the government to control the stories they tell. The law allows Minnesota to punish them with fines and jail time if they create wedding films consistent with their faith while declining to create wedding films promoting contrary views.

Carl and Angel Larsen and the company they own, Telescope Media Group, asked a federal district court for an injunction that would suspend enforcement of the law against them while their case proceeds. The court denied that request and instead ruled in favor of the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which means the Larsens have to continue censoring their own speech about marriage to avoid violating the law. The Larsens then appealed to the 8th Circuit and are asking it to reinstate their lawsuit.

“As those who filed briefs in support of the Larsens agree, the government shouldn’t threaten artists with fines and jail simply for living in accordance with their beliefs in the marketplace,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Americans should have the freedom to disagree on significant matters of conscience, which is why everyone, regardless of their view of marriage, should support the Larsens. Government is supposed to be freedom’s greatest protector, not its greatest threat.”

“Utilizing the weight of government power to order individuals to speak in a manner that violates their conscience is fundamentally at odds with the freedom of expression and tolerance for a diversity of viewpoints that this Nation has long enjoyed and promoted...,” explains the brief that the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia filed with the court. “The government need not compel its citizenry to express or facilitate messages that violate the conscience of artistic professionals.”

“The government’s interest in preventing discrimination cannot justify restricting Telescope Media’s First Amendment rights,” adds a brief filed by Eugene Volokh of the UCLA School of Law and attorney John Whitehead on behalf of The Cato Institute and 11 legal scholars. “Telescope Media is not discriminating based on the sexual orientation of any customer. Rather, its owners are choosing which messages they film and promote.”

The lawsuit, Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey, challenges portions of Minnesota Statutes Chapter 363. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights has construed that law to force creative professionals like the Larsens to promote objectionable messages even though they gladly serve everyone and decide what stories to tell based on the story’s message, not any client’s personal characteristics.

Minnesota Department of Human Rights officials have repeatedly stated that private businesses such as the Larsens’ violate the law if they decline to create expression promoting same-sex weddings. Penalties for violation include payment of a civil penalty to the state; triple compensatory damages; punitive damages of up to $25,000; a criminal penalty of up to $1,000; and even up to 90 days in jail.

Renee Carlson, one of more than 3,200 private attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel in the case for the Larsens and Telescope Media Group.
  • Pronunciation guide: Tedesco (Teh-DESS’-koh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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Friend-of-the-court briefs filed with U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit

Additional resources: Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Previous news releases:

  • 2018-01-22: Filmmakers to appeals court: Don’t allow govt to control our stories
  • 2017-10-20: Minnesota filmmakers appeal ruling that allows state to control their stories
  • 2017-09-20: ADF to appeal ruling that allows Minnesota officials to control filmmakers’ stories
  • 2017-05-25: Minnesota filmmakers to court: Stop state from controlling stories we tell
  • 2017-01-13: Minnesota filmmakers ask court to halt state control of their films
  • 2016-12-06: Minnesota filmmakers’ lawsuit puts freedom in focus


  • Carl Larsen: Preserve freedom, including religious convictions, for everyone (St. Cloud Times, 2017-10-21)
  • Angel Larsen: Christian videographer: Let's live together in peace instead of silencing those with whom we disagree (Fox News, 2017-10-20)
  • James Gottry: Court put state law above First Amendment in wedding video case (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2017-09-27)
  • Jim Campbell: Arguments separating fashion designers from other artists aren’t worthy of the runway (National Review, 2017-01-23)
  • Jim Campbell: Designers can refuse to dress the Trumps. Other artists should have the same freedom. (Washington Post, 2017-01-18)
  • Jordan Lorence: Because of Trump, The Left suddenly cares about conscience rights again (The Federalist, 2017-01-04)
  • Jonathan Scruggs: Lawsuit: Businesses have same right as people (St. Cloud Times, 2016-12-24)
  • Jeremy Tedesco: Minnesota wants to censor and coerce Christian artists (The Gospel Coalition, 2016-12-22)
  • Jeremy Tedesco: The Left’s discrimination double standard: artistic freedom for me, but not for thee (CNS News, 2016-12-13)
  • Carl Larsen: Religious beliefs and the marketplace: We’re acting pre-emptively to protect our rights (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2016-12-07)

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