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Minnesota filmmakers appeal ruling that allows state to control their stories

ADF attorneys representing owners of Telescope Media Group ask appeals court to reinstate lawsuit

Friday, Oct 20, 2017
MINNEAPOLIS – A pair of St. Cloud filmmakers on Friday appealed a court order from last month that dismissed their lawsuit challenging a state law that allows Minnesota officials to control the stories they tell. The law forces them to use their creative talents to promote same-sex marriages if they produce films that celebrate marriage between one man and one woman.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Carl and Angel Larsen and the company they own, Telescope Media Group, argued before a federal district court against dismissal and in favor of an order that would suspend enforcement of the law against the Larsens while their case proceeds. The court denied that request and 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.

“Creative professionals who engage in the expression of ideas shouldn’t be threatened with fines and jail simply for having a particular point of view about marriage that the government may not favor,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “People should have the freedom to disagree on critical matters of conscience, which is why everyone, regardless of their view of marriage, can support the Larsens. The same government that can force them to violate their faith and conscience can force any one of us to do the same. That’s why we are appealing the district court’s ruling to the 8th Circuit.”

Specifically, 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.

“Like most people in the expressive professions, we work with all people; we just can’t promote all messages…,” Angel Larsen wrote in a Fox News op-ed published Friday. “Two of our sons are adopted from Ethiopia. Our youngest child is half Cameroonian and half Native American. And having eight children means we can’t afford to travel the world, so we bring the world to us. We do this precisely because we believe beauty exists in the diversity of God’s creation…. This has included spending Christmas with an alcoholic Vietnam veteran, a bisexual international student, and yes, even Trump supporters, among many, many others. We love all people. We work with all people. We simply don’t promote all messages.”

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 nearly 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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