“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge,” -Acts 4:19
The Freedom of religion is a human right so fundamental that our founders preserved it as our first freedom in the U.S. Constitution’s first amendment. It gives us the ability to express, act upon and honor what we believe to be spiritual truth. As we work to protect religious freedom in New Mexico, we must return to an understanding of this guaranteed right and consider what happens when it is threatened. Only then can we grasp the fullness of the vision of a New Mexico where religious freedom flourishes.
In 2006, Elaine Huguenin, an Albuquerque wedding photographer, respectfully declined a request to photograph a same-sex ceremony on the basis that her participation would violate her deeply held religious beliefs regarding marriage. Although the same-sex couple was able to find another photographer, they nonetheless filed a complaint against Elaine with the Human Rights Commission, commencing years of legal action that would ultimately make it to the New Mexico Supreme Court.
In August 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Elaine in one of the most unusual and unprecedented rejections of religious freedom to date. In a special concurring opinion, Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson conceded that the Court’s decision would have sobering results for people of faith, noting that Elaine and her husband were now “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.” Even so, Justice Bosson concurred with the Court’s decision, concluding that this compulsory compromise was “the price of citizenship” in New Mexico.
As Christians, we should be outraged by this blatant attack against the religious freedoms guaranteed to us by our U.S. and State Constitutions. A New Mexico where religious freedom flourishes would hold valuable the truth that “Nothing in the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act authorizes a government agency to burden a person's free exercise of religion” (§ 28-22-5. Construction of Act). A person’s "free exercise of religion" “means an act or a refusal to act that is substantially motivated by religious belief” (§ 28-22-2. Definitions). Yet, the Court’s ruling in Elaine’s case did the opposite. Elaine was not afforded the fundamental right to freely exercise her beliefs.
Yes, this is happening, and, yes, we must do something about it!
At New Mexico Family Action Movement, we are dedicated to preserving our freedom to believe and live out our faith. We do this by promoting public policy that protects and enhances this freedom for individuals, families, churches, organizations, and companies. At the same time, we defend against policies that would erode constitutional protections for people of faith and the entities they operate.
Picture this – a New Mexico where God is honored and religious freedom flourishes. Together, let us “unleash citizenship” and not settle for Justice Bosson’s “price of citizenship” in New Mexico.