‘ I can only photograph what celebrates God’s creation and design for the world…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) A Virginia wedding photographer filed a lawsuit against the state after it passed a new anti-discrimination law that would force him to promote same-sex marriage against his religious beliefs.
The photographer, Chris Herring, argued that the Virginia Values Act creates an “impossible choice” for Christian Virginians: “violate the law and risk bankruptcy, promote views against his faith, or close down,” said Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative law firm representing Herring.
“And this was exactly what Virginia officials wanted for those who hold Chris’ religious beliefs about marriage,” the lawsuit states. “Legislators who passed Virginia’s law called views like Chris’ ‘bigotry’ and sought to punish them with ‘unlimited punitive damages’ to remove them from the public square.”
The Virginia Values Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, but Herring argued in his lawsuit that government officials could easily use the law to accuse him and other Christians of discrimination.
Such accusations would be unfair, since Herring gladly serves LGBT clients for brand and adventure shoots, the lawsuit states. But he will not photograph same-sex weddings—not because he is discriminatory, but because his beliefs prevent him from doing so.
“Because of my faith, I can only photograph consistent with who I am and what I believe. I can only photograph what celebrates God’s creation and design for the world,” Herring said in a statement. “I won’t photograph ceremonies that contradict God’s design for marriage as something between one man and one woman.”
Herring would also refuse to “promote drug tourism” or “photograph a red-light district” because of his religious beliefs, he said.
“I happily work with and serve all customers, but I can’t and won’t let the state force me to express messages that contradict my beliefs,” he said.