Freedom of conscience

“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.” –Thomas Jefferson
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys are involved in numerous legal matters in defense of the freedom of citizens to live according to their faith and conscience without punishment by the government. We are available for media interviews on this important freedom and any of the related legal matters listed below. Members of the media may book an interview through our media contact page. To notify us of a potential legal matter, or if you believe you are in a situation in which your freedom of conscience or religion has been violated, visit our legal help page.

Active ADF legal matters

Creative professionals:

  • Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission: Two men filed a complaint with the state of Colorado after cake artist Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop declined to use his artistic abilities to promote and endorse their same-sex ceremony. The men filed the complaint even though other cake artists were willing to do the job.
  • Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington and Arlene’s Flowers v. Ingersoll: Both the state of Washington and a long-time customer have sued Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, for declining to use her artistic skills to participate in and design custom floral arrangements for the customer’s same-sex ceremony. Stutzman instead referred the customer to one of a large number of other florists in the area who were willing to fill the order.
  • Hands On Originals v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission: The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission after Kentucky printer Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals declined to print shirts for the GLSO’s Pride Festival because he did not want to promote the message of the event. Adamson instead referred the GLSO to other printers in the area who were willing to fill the order.
  • Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix: A city of Phoenix ordinance forces the two young female owners of Brush & Nib Studio—an art studio that specializes in hand-painting, hand-lettering, and calligraphy for weddings and other events—to use their artistic talents to promote same-sex ceremonies. The ordinance also forbids the studio and its proprietors from publicly expressing their Christian belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or explaining why they hold to that time-honored view.
  • 303 Creative v. Elenis: A Colorado law forces Lorie Smith and her studio, 303 Creative, to use her artistic talents to promote same-sex ceremonies if she creates custom websites and graphics celebrating weddings between one man and one woman. The law also forbids her from publicly expressing the religious reasons she declines to do so, including her belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and why she can’t use her artistic talents to promote a same-sex marriage.
  • Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey: A Minnesota law 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. Minnesota Department of Human Rights officials have repeatedly stated that private businesses such as the Larsens’ violate that law, the Minnesota Human Rights Act, if they decline to create expression promoting same-sex weddings. Penalties for violating the law 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.

Employment:

  • Cochran v. City of Atlanta: The city of Atlanta, Georgia, suspended its fire chief for 30 days and required him to complete a conformity program after activists who don’t agree with the fire chief’s Christian views complained. After an investigation found Kelvin Cochran’s beliefs did not lead him to discriminate against anyone, the mayor fired him anyway—ironically on the basis of the need to tolerate diverse views.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, acting on the complaint of a former employee of a Michigan funeral home, filed a lawsuit against a Christian-run funeral home for its sex-specific dress code, which requires employees to dress in a manner sensitive to grieving family members and friends. After informing the owner of an intention to begin dressing as a female at work in a role that frequently interacts with mourners, the employee was dismissed for refusing to comply with the dress code.

Marketplace:

  • Country Mill Farms v. City of East Lansing: The city of East Lansing, Michigan, crafted a new ordinance to oust an organic farmer from the local farmer’s market, where he has done business since 2010, because city officials learned he believes marriage is the union of one man and one woman. The farmer, who runs Country Mill Farms with his family, wants to be able to sell food to all people, but the city is preventing him from doing so at the farmer’s market.

Life-related:

Facilities/venues:

  • Cervelli v. Aloha Bed & Breakfast: Two self-identified lesbians filed a complaint with the state of Hawaii after Phyllis Young declined, because of her religious beliefs about marriage, to allow the women to rent a room and share a bed in her home, just as she had also done when an unmarried female relative requested to share a room with her boyfriend. Young and her husband rent a few rooms in their 2,000-square-foot home under the name “Aloha Bed & Breakfast” to supplement their retirement income.

Closed ADF legal matters

Creative professionals:

  • Amy Lynn Photography Studio v. City of Madison: A sweeping Madison, Wisconsin, ordinance and a state law forced commissioned creative professionals to promote messages that violated their beliefs until a federal court issued an order prohibiting either law from being enforced against artists who don’t have storefronts.
  • Elane Photography v. Willock: In 2006, Elaine Huguenin received an e-mail from a woman about photographing a “commitment ceremony” between her and her same-sex partner and asking if Elaine would be “open to helping us celebrate our day….” Elaine politely declined to use her artistic expression to communicate a message at odds with her beliefs. The woman who approached Elaine, Vanessa Willock, easily found another photographer for her ceremony—and for less money. Nevertheless, Willock filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.

Life-related:

  • District of Columbia abortion mandate: The District of Columbia Council is forcing pro-life organizations to pay for insurance coverage that covers elective abortions.
  • Bracy v. Burwell: The Connecticut state health exchange only offered plans that include abortion coverage, and thus every plan on the exchange required an abortion surcharge mandated by Obamacare. Consequently, the Bracy family of Connecticut had two options: violate their conscience and faith by personally subsidizing the abortions of others or be penalized with steep fines.
  • Doe v. Burwell: An HIV-positive Rhode Island man lost his private health plan due to Obamacare and was forced on to the state exchange. Under Obamacare, every health insurance exchange plan in Rhode Island required individuals to directly pay a “separate payment” to cover elective abortions. The man was in critical need of health insurance coverage but did not want to compromise his pro-life beliefs.
  • Stormans v. Wiesman: A pharmacy and two pharmacists challenged regulations passed by the Washington State Pharmacy Board which mandate that pharmacies must stock and pharmacists must dispense the “morning-after” pill if requested by a customer even when other nearby pharmacies and pharmacists will fill the order.

Facilities/venues:

  • Knapp v. City of Coeur d’Alene: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, officials told Donald Knapp that he and his wife Evelyn, both ordained ministers who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, are required to perform same-sex ceremonies or face months in jail and/or thousands of dollars in fines. The city claimed its “non-discrimination” ordinance required the Knapps to perform such ceremonies now that the courts have overridden Idaho’s voter-approved constitutional amendment that affirmed marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
  • Gifford v. Erwin: Cynthia and Robert Gifford live in a barn they built on their farm and occasionally hosted weddings on the first floor and the surrounding backyard area. Cynthia served as a wedding coordinator for those events and did everything but officiate the ceremony. In 2012, Melisa McCarthy called Cynthia, inquiring about the use of the farm for her upcoming same-sex ceremony. Because of her Christian faith’s teachings on marriage, Cynthia politely made it clear to McCarthy that she and her husband don’t host and coordinate same-sex ceremonies but left open the invitation to visit the farm to consider it as a potential reception site. Instead, McCarthy and her partner filed a complaint with the Division of Human Rights.

ADF International legal matters

Visit the ADF International freedom of conscience page

Notable quotes on freedom of conscience

  • “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.”  – Thomas Jefferson
  • “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.… Conscience is the most sacred of all property; other property depending in part on positive law, the exercise of that, being a natural and unalienable right.”  – James Madison
  • “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”  – U.S. Supreme Court in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette
  • “Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal. It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well, especially in those quiet moments, when the spotlight’s not on us, and we’re making those daily choices about how to live our lives.”  – Michelle Obama