Will Conservatives Champion 'Piss Christ' to Defend Bigoted Wedding Photographer?

The Supreme Court disappointed conservatives this week by refusing to hear the case of a New Mexico wedding photographer who refused to photograph a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony in 2006. The wrinkle in this case is that the defendants attempted to carve out a distinction for people who "create expression for a living."
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The Supreme Court disappointed conservatives this week by refusing to hear the case of a New Mexico wedding photographer who refused to photograph a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony in 2006. The wrinkle in this case is that the defendants attempted to carve out a distinction for people who "create expression for a living."
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God, I hope so.

The Supreme Court disappointed conservatives this week by refusing to hear the case of a New Mexico wedding photographer who refused to photograph a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony in 2006. The wrinkle in this case is that the defendants attempted to carve out a distinction for people who "create expression for a living," like photographers. Matt Lewis of The Week argues that photographers should maybe be exempt from public accommodation laws because they are artistes, and marshals "Piss Christ" in defense of the idea:

Shouldn't artists (like photographers) have the right do pursue (or not pursue) projects based on whatever criteria they choose — be they principled, arbitrary, or even misguided? Shouldn't artists, of all people, have the right to be wrong?

Will the government be our new assignment editors? What if someone wants me to cover a gay wedding for The Week — must I now oblige? Is politely declining tantamount to law-breaking discrimination?

This may sound alarmist, but if a photographer is a baker, then maybe a writer is a photographer. And if a photographer doesn't qualify as an artist — someone whose work reflects their personality, beliefs, soul — then who does? Or maybe it depends on what kind of photographer you are?

Does Piss Christ (a taxpayer-funded 1987 photo of a crucifix in a glass of urine) qualify as free expression and "art" (as progressives told us when they cared about preserving free expression), while pictures of your son's graduation merely constitute bourgeois commerce?

Matt and I had a little chat over this on Twitter this morning, which I will get to in a second, but first, I want to say that I love Matt Lewis, and I love "Piss Christ," the Unholy Grail of conservatives trying to prove a point about art. The last time "Piss Christ" got a good workout from conservatives, it was to show how great Christians are for not having rioted over it. Watching conservatives talk about "Piss Christ" on Fox News is just a good time, and I really hope this part of Matt's argument projects. For what it's worth, I think that conservatives are missing out on the golden business opportunity that is Piss Wedding Photography. If "Piss Christ" was worth $277,000.00, imagine what an entire Piss Album could bring?

When I read Matt's piece, the first thing I wondered was whether his argument included some sort of fail-safe for artists who don't want to photograph interracial weddings. He cagily referred me back to his piece, which appears to assert the right of wedding photographers to discriminate for any reason. He also asked me the following:

On the narrow merits of Matt's argument, no, freedom of expression should not be a legal shield against discrimination laws. There are already limits on the "freedom of expression" that a wedding photographer enjoys. You can't decide, for example, that the best way to express the blessed event is to exclusively photograph extreme closeups of the couple's noses, or to photograph someone else's wedding, or to photograph a series of crayon drawings of a wedding. A wedding band can't decide to play a set consisting only of bluegrass covers of Ace of Base songs (although that would be awesome).

But beyond that, anti-discrimination laws exist to protect particular classes of people. Divorced people are not one of those classes, so it would be interesting to see if a court would compel a good Christian photographer to work someone's second or third wedding. Funny how that never seems to come up. The argument here, though, doesn't seem to be over whether LGBT people ought to be a protected class, but whether that should matter if you're an artiste.

As promised, here are the answers to Matt's other questions:

Will the government be our new assignment editors?

No.

What if someone wants me to cover a gay wedding for The Week — must I now oblige? Is politely declining tantamount to law-breaking discrimination?

No, unless that someone is your boss. If your editors at The Week ask you to cover a gay wedding, it's up to them what to do if you refuse. They'd be within their rights to dismiss you for non-performance.

This may sound alarmist, but if a photographer is a baker, then maybe a writer is a photographer. And if a photographer doesn't qualify as an artist — someone whose work reflects their personality, beliefs, soul — then who does? Or maybe it depends on what kind of photographer you are?

If you make sandwiches, you're an artist, but that doesn't entitle you to ignore discrimination laws, or pretty much any other work requirement.

Does Piss Christ (a taxpayer-funded 1987 photo of a crucifix in a glass of urine) qualify as free expression and "art" (as progressives told us when they cared about preserving free expression), while pictures of your son's graduation merely constitute bourgeois commerce?

Better to be safe and get someone to do a "Piss Graduation."

serious question: should you be compelled to write a blog post for a white nationalist organization?

No, but if I were to offer blog posts as a service to the general public, I should not be able to refuse a client simply because they are white.