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Cara Hamstra is a Christian videographer who is being targeted with a complaint after declining to use her artistic skills to celebrate a same-sex wedding. The couple is now seeking to make her pay for her beliefs. We hope you will join us in defending her.
Compelling Artists to Violate their
Consciences: The Case of Cara Hamstra
Compelling Artists to Violate their Consciences: The Case of Cara Hamstra
Should the government force an artist to create artwork that is opposed to his or her beliefs or convictions?
The Acacia Group is defending Cara Hamstra, a Christian videographer, against a human rights complaint. Cara politely declined to act as the videographer for a same-sex couple’s wedding. The couple filed a complaint and now seek damages for Cara’s choice. They do not recognize that Cara would be damaged by choosing to violate her own conscience.
Cara believes marriage is, by God’s good design, the lifelong union of one man and one woman. Much of the secular world might no longer hold to these beliefs. But she does. This religious belief is fundamental to her faith, sincerely held, and at the core of her lawfully protected right to religious freedom.
As a wedding videographer, Ms. Hamstra is an interviewer, storyteller, film director, and film producer. Her craft is much more than simply wielding a camera to capture footage, which itself requires talent and artistic perspective. First, Cara interviews the couple. Then she plans scenes, gives stage directions and comes up with unique ways of capturing and conveying the couple’s love story. Finally, Cara films for approximately ten hours, compiles the footage, edits video and audio recordings, selects accompanying music, and spends many hours arranging it all into a finished work of art.
As Cara tells it, “I become very personally involved with these couples as the director of the day and editor for months after…I promote and encourage the love story that bound them together before God, the Creator of marriage.”
As a Christian artist, Cara does all of this to capture and communicate the goodness of God’s gift of marriage and to give glory to God. Cara’s faith is inextricably intertwined with her art – she cannot separate the two. Cara’s sincerely held religious beliefs, artistic integrity, and conscience do not permit her to artistically depict a sacred ceremony that is contrary to her belief of God’s design for marriage.
Requiring Cara to violate her religious beliefs by creating celebratory videos of same-sex weddings or to cease working as a wedding videographer would severely infringe her freedom of conscience and religion, her freedom of expression and her right to equal treatment under the law on the basis of religion. The right to equal treatment in the Ontario Human Rights Code must not be interpreted in a manner that would force an artist, and in this case, an artist of Christian faith, to communicate or depict in a celebratory way something to which he or she sincerely objects.
It is far better to permit artists like Cara to be honest and upfront about which artistic projects they will or will not take on.
For example, a Muslim freelance writer would likely not object to being hired by a Christian per se. However, he might object to being hired to write a defense of the divinity of Jesus Christ, or a critique of the teachings of Mohammed. Legally permitting the Muslim freelance writer to decline such assignments would not unduly threaten Christians’ rights to have equal access to services without discrimination based on religion. Rather, it would protect the Muslim writer’s freedom of conscience and religion. Similarly, should a Buddhist who adopted, for spiritual reasons, a vegan lifestyle be forced to be the official photographer and social media promoter of a hunter and angler convention?
The Human Rights Code already limits the scope of non-discrimination rules with respect to weddings. Religious officials are not required to officiate or support the celebration of a wedding that is contrary to their religious beliefs. The Code does not compel religious officials to violate their beliefs, even though religious officials have the privileged legal capacity to officiate weddings.
This same reasoning applies to Cara because she also has Charter-protected religious beliefs about the nature and meaning of marriage as a religious institution. The nature of her services in connection with a marriage ceremony is such that she would be expected to depict that event in a positive and celebratory light, which would conflict with her beliefs.
These arguments do not suggest that LGBT-identified persons should not generally have equal access to goods and services. Of course they should. But a custom wedding video created by an artist such as Cara makes it different. It is art. It conveys a message. It cannot be compelled by the state in violation of a person’s freedom of conscience, religion, and expression. To force Cara to create this video would be to say: “Say something you do not believe in or lose your job.”
To force Cara to create art she does not agree with is to force her to say something she does not believe. To force Cara to create art she does not agree with is to mandate state-compelled speech and state-compelled artistic expression.
This is utterly wrong.
Cara's Legal Fund
As a result of the human rights complaint made against Cara, she needs to raise funds to pay the legal team representing her. If you believe in fundamental freedoms such as freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech and expression, please donate today to support Cara’s legal fund.
For nearly 15 years, The Acacia Group’s lawyers have represented clients’ constitutional and human rights. They have appeared numerous times before the Supreme Court of Canada as well as the Federal Court and many lower courts and human rights tribunals across Canada, including in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. They have appeared at every major religious freedom case before the Supreme Court of Canada since 2008.
Combined, their team has decades of experience fighting for their clients’ rights to peacefully assemble, express their religious beliefs, participate in the political process, educate their children, and more.
Please note that as neither the “Defend Cara” website nor The Acacia Group are registered charities, charitable tax receipts will not be issued for donations.
Ways to Donate
Donations can be made by credit card by clicking the link below, by cheque, or by e-transfer.
To donate by e-transfer, please use the email address email@example.com and note in the message field that it is for Cara Hamstra.
To donate by cheque, please make it out to “The Acacia Group in Trust” and note on the memo line that it is for Cara Hamstra. All cheques must be mailed to the Acacia Group. The contact information can be found here.
The current fundraising goal is $70,000
This is the estimated cost of fees and expenses for defending Cara at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Any funds raised beyond what is needed will be kept in trust to cover legal and professional expenses should the litigation continue on to the Ontario Divisional Court. Should any funds remain at the end of the litigation, they will be donated to Cara’s registered charity of choice.
The fundraising progress bar will be updated daily by the Acacia Group’s financial department once donations are reviewed and processed.
The fundraising goal may be adjusted as the case progresses to best reflect the funding needs.