Two Phoenix artists are fighting back against a court decision that could force them to violate their principles.
The Arizona Supreme Court will hear the appeal of two evangelical Christian artists who refuse to obey a Phoenix law requiring them to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, the Arizona Republic reported.
Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, who own Brush & Nib Studio, make custom artwork using painting, calligraphy and hand-lettering. They say that designing invitations or creating artwork for LGBT couples is equivalent to endorsing their marriage, according to The Daily Wire.
The city of Phoenix disagrees. The city’s LGBT ordinance calls for six months in jail and a fine of $2,500 per day for businesses that refuse to serve LGBT individuals.
Duka and Koski lost their state suit to overturn the ordinance. Arizona’s Court of Appeals sided with the lower court.
However, in November, the state’s Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. Oral arguments are expected to take place next month.
The Alliance Defending Freedom is supporting Duka and Koski in their efforts.
“Their Christian beliefs forbid them from creating ‘custom artwork that conveys messages condoning, supporting, or participating in activities or ideas that violate their religious beliefs. For example, they cannot create artwork expressing messages that ‘contradict biblical truth, demean others, endorse racism, (or) incite violence,’” ADF said in a court filing.
The Phoenix law gives the government power to force individuals to act in ways contrary to their beliefs, ADF argued in a filing attacking the Court of Appeals’ decision.
“According to the COA, compelling artists to write words and paint paintings does not regulate speech, and compelling those who believe in traditional marriage to create art celebrating same-sex marriage does not substantially burden their religious beliefs,” the filing said.
“Joanna and Breanna believe ‘that God ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman,’ and they ‘cannot create custom artwork’ for weddings celebrating any other union because doing so conveys messages celebrating those unions in violation of their beliefs,” the filing said. “Joanna and Breanna’s religious beliefs also motivate them to post a statement on their studio’s website explaining how their religious beliefs prevent them from creating certain artwork, including artwork celebrating same-sex marriage.”
“No one should be forced to create artwork contrary to their core convictions, and certainly not under threat of criminal fines and jail time. That is what’s at stake in this case, and we hope that the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision will protect artistic and religious freedom for everyone,” ADF senior counsel Jonathan Scruggs said a statement.
“The government must allow artists to make their own decisions about which messages they will promote. Joanna and Breanna are happy to design custom art for anyone; they simply object to being forced to pour their heart, soul, imagination, and talent into creating messages that violate their conscience,” he said.
When Duka and Koski appealed the lower court ruling, Duka explained the reason for their actions, even though no same-sex couple had requested their services, according to the Arizona Republic.
“Artists invest so much of themselves in what they create,” she said. “The government shouldn’t control those expressive decisions.”
Duka said the suit is aimed at protecting free speech for everyone.
“We brought this case to protect this freedom not just for ourselves but for all artists,” Duka said.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.