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A Very Slippery Legal Slope

Looks like New Mexico legal cases are getting national blog coverage again:

In New Mexico, religious rights can disappear in a flash, and no one has learned that painful lesson better than Elane Photography. The company, a Christian husband-and-wife team named Huguenin, has become the latest victims of religious intolerance at the hands of the state of New Mexico for refusing to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.

Follow the link above and read the whole thing if you’re not familiar with the case, or better yet do a search for “Elane photography.”

Now, I’m not sure I see this as an example of religious intolerance. However, I am very concerned about the legal precedent being set here. If you boil this down to simplest terms, this is a case about whether or not any business owner has a choice with regard to whom they take as a client/customer.

I, for one, am not comfortable with that choice being taken away. Some may say that the problem is that the business owners were forthright in their reason for the refusal. Would it have been better for them to have lied? Should they just have said they were already booked and that be the end of that? Does hiding the truth make for a better world? I don’t think so.

I’m an American, whose father is from Ecuador, and whose mother is a first generation American born to Hungarian Jews. Before anyone accuses me of not understanding discrimination, I want you to know that growing up I found myself alternately being labeled a kike, a spic and a gringo depending upon the environment. I watched time and time again as assumptions were made about one or both of my parents for very wrong reasons.

So, I don’t doubt that the lesbian couple was offended that Christian photographers did not want to photograph their wedding. Nor, do I doubt that Christian photographers are offended by the action of the courts. I can empathize with both parties.

But, what I don’t understand is the government’s involvement here. Tolerance is to live and let live. Tolerance is not to force one party to embrace, adopt or participate in the actions of the other party. Tolerance cannot be forced. In fact, the opposite is true. When the government attempts to force tolerance, the result is to breed intolerance and contempt. It is actions like this case that divide rather than unite.

I own an advertising agency. If a neo-Nazi group approached me to put together a radio campaign for them, I should be able to decline to do so because I find their beliefs offensive. If a close all borders to all immigrants group asked me to do a television spot for them, I should be able to turn them away. I could go on, but you get the idea.

We’re heading down a VERY slippery legal slope.