Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Jeremy Tedesco and clients Carl and Angel Larsen went on Fox News October 16 to discuss their case, in which the two videographers sued over a Minnesota law making it illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The case, Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey, entered oral arguments earlier that day at the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and could go all the way to the Supreme Court. The couple sued the Minnesota human rights commissioner in order to deny services to LGBTQ people in a “pre-enforcement” case, a common ADF legal tactic in which people sue a law that has not yet been enforced against them, meaning that the Larsens had not yet been affected by the law in question. Another high-profile ADF case, Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix, is also a pre-enforcement challenge, and ADF is pushing at least half dozen similar religious exemptions cases through the courts.
The appearance of Tedesco and his clients on Fox News is no surprise, as Fox News and other right-wing media outlets have proven to be friendly outlets for ADF and its messaging. During the segment, host Shannon Bream acknowledged that the Larsens were “challenging that law before ever getting into” the wedding business. Tedesco and the Larsens repeatedly categorized their business services as “speech” and said that their opposition to the law was “about the message and not the people that we’re working with.” In fact, ADF and the cases it works on consistently take extreme anti-LGBTQ positions, and the group opposes nearly every aspect of LGBTQ equality. From the October 16 edition of Fox News at Night with Shannon Bream:
SHANNON BREAM (HOST): You say you’re storytellers. You already do film production. You’d like to get into the wedding business, but because of a state law that would require you to do all ceremonies, you decided to challenge that law before ever getting into the business. Tell us why you made that decision.
CARL LARSEN (ADF CLIENT): Well, we are. We’re story tellers. We are attracted to telling stories that align with our beliefs. We’ve said from the very first day on our website that our company, Telescope Media Group, exists to glorify god through the projects we create and so that gives us a natural attraction to telling wedding stories because the Bible teaches that weddings and marriage are symbolic relationships between Christ and his church.
JEREMY TEDESCO (ADF LAWYER): This isn’t the sale of goods and services. This is the creation of speech. What the -- what Minnesota says they have the power to do is threaten Carl and Angel with steep fines and up to 90 days in jail to force them to express messages through their films that violate their deepest convictions. The government doesn't have that kind of power. The First Amendment doesn’t allow it to have that kind of power. If it did, it could force an atheist marketer to create a billboard campaign for a church promoting belief in God. This is simply a power we don't allow the government to have, and for good reason, because it’s a -- that right to be free from compelled speech is a right that we all benefit from.
BREAM: Yeah, and we are talking significant fines and actual jail time if you violated this. The lower court, the district judge initially dismissed the case, and one of the things he said was that if you were to say we’ll do these weddings, but we won't do same-sex ceremonies, he said it was conduct akin to a “white applicants only” sign. Carl and Angel, how did that make you feel when he equivocated your behavior, your plans, with something like that?
ANGEL LARSEN (ADF CLIENT): It was absolutely absurd. Actually, I was deeply hurt and offended by those words because we invite the world into our home regularly, and it was -- we have two children adopted from Ethiopia, so to have someone say that to us deeply hurt.
CARL LARSEN: We work with everyone. Absolutely, we work with everyone. And it -- this is always about the message and not the people that we’re working with. We work with everyone.
Correction: an earlier version of this post misspelled the last name of ADF's clients.