NOTE: This article was originally published on the ADF blog on April 19, 2022.
Carl and Angel Larsen have eight kids, run their own family business, and are heavily involved in their local church and community. That would be enough to keep most of us perpetually busy.
But the Larsens decided to add one more thing to their plate—a lawsuit. When Carl and Angel realized that a Minnesota law was threatening their freedom to live and work consistently with their faith, they decided to challenge the government in court.
Let’s take a closer look at this couple and their case against the state of Minnesota.
Who are Carl and Angel Larsen of Telescope Media Group?
“I want to marry a guy like that.”
That’s what went through Angel’s mind when she and Carl were in high school. Their science teacher was battling cancer, and they had gone to visit her in the local hospital. While they were there, they also stopped by the hospital room of Carl’s mother—who was recovering from the removal of a non-malignant brain tumor. Angel watched as Carl lovingly took care of his mom, making sure she was comfortable and fluffing her pillow.
Carl and Angel’s first date was senior prom. And they’re now married with eight children.
As you can imagine, that keeps them busy—as does owning a filmmaking business, Telescope Media Group. Telescope Media Group’s mission is to tell great stories through film that magnify Christ like a telescope.
But their family and their business don’t keep them so busy that they don’t make time for two of their passions: marriage and hospitality.
Carl and Angel are passionate about protecting and promoting marriage as God designed it—a union between one man and one woman that mirrors Christ’s relationship with his Church. And they do what they can to support that belief. They counsel couples preparing to get engaged and married, as well as couples who have been married for a long time. Carl has even officiated two weddings.
The Larsens always make time for others. If you were to walk into Carl and Angel’s home, you would see their massive 12-foot-long dining room table where they welcome people from all backgrounds and beliefs. And if you were to look underneath the table, you would see the names of over 1,000 guests who have shared a meal and a conversation with the Larsen family. It’s their way of showing Christ’s love to people in their community.
There’s no doubt Carl and Angel lead full lives, lives that were made even fuller when they became involved in a lawsuit against their state.
When the U.S. Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Carl and Angel were concerned. With all their work upholding and strengthening marriage, they wanted to do more. They wanted to help the culture understand the beauty of marriage as God designed it.
So, they decided they wanted to start using their filmmaking talents to tell stories of marriage.
There’s just one problem—a problem that initially forced Carl and Angel to hold off from entering the wedding industry.
Minnesota interpreted state law to mean that if the Larsens tell stories about marriage that are consistent with their religious beliefs, they must also tell stories about marriage that violate those beliefs. But this completely contradicts the message that the Larsens are hoping to express through these films.
Minnesota Department of Human Rights officials repeatedly stated that creative professionals like the Larsens violate the law if they decline to create expression promoting same-sex weddings.
It didn’t matter to the state that the Larsens gladly served everyone. According to state officials, if the Larsens declined to celebrate same-sex weddings with their artistic talents, they would face severe fines and even up to 90 days in jail.
Rather than wait for Minnesota’s unconstitutional law to be used to target and punish them, Carl and Angel decided to take a stand.
- December 2016: Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on the Larsens’ behalf.
- September 2017: A federal district court ruled that the state has the right to control what messages Carl and Angel express through their films. ADF appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
- August 2019: The Eighth Circuit ruled that the lower court should not have dismissed the lawsuit and affirmed the Larsens’ First Amendment rights.
A federal appellate court held that government cannot coerce individuals to speak and celebrate messages and events that violate their faith. Carl and Angel took a stand for that freedom—and in doing so, they sought to protect that freedom for all of us. If the government has the power to force people to express messages against their faith, where does it stop? And who will it target next?
Thankfully, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that the lower court should not have dismissed the lawsuit. The Court’s opinion concluded that “the First Amendment allows the Larsens to choose when to speak and what to say.”
The bottom line
No American should have to live in fear of government punishment simply for living and working consistently with their faith.