Religious Exemptions and the Elane Photography Case:

I'm wondering whether the religious exemption question might be getting lost in our discussion of the compelled speech issue. The compelled speech issue is a First Amendment question, and thus arises everywhere, and for all photographers, so that is more important. But the religious exemption issue remains significant, since about half the jurisdictions have a general religious exemption rule (by statute or by interpretation of the state constitutional provision).

Recall that the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides that:

A government agency shall not restrict a person's free exercise of religion [i.e., an act or a refusal to act that is substantially motivated by religious belief] unless ... the application of the restriction to the person is essential to further a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Assume, as seems to be the case, that Elaine Huguenin's refusal to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony does seem to be substantially motivated by her religious belief. Is applying the antidiscrimination law to Huegenin really "essential to further a compelling governmental interest," especially given that there are doubtless many other Albuquerque photographers who would have no religious objections to photographing same-sex ceremonies? Will it even materially advance whatever compelling governmental interest is present, given that forcing photographers to photograph events that they find repugnant is not likely to produce the warm, affectionate photographs that couples want?

I discussed this more here, but I wanted to ask what you folks -- and especially those who defend the New Mexico Human Rights Commission decision -- think about this.