By Kerri Kupec
By now, you’ve probably heard the stories of the Washington floral designer
, the Kentucky T-shirt printer
, the Colorado cake artist
, and the Phoenix custom art studio
. All are creative professionals who have been told that putting their conscience, speech, and religious freedom aside is, as a New Mexico Supreme Court judge said in an earlier case
, “the price of citizenship” – a price that has included the loss of business, livelihood and threat of jail and criminal penalties.
Alliance Defending Freedom will argue the florist’s case before the Washington State Supreme Court on November 15th, and the cake artist has asked the United States Supreme Court to take his case.
On Oct. 25th, Alliance Defending Freedom hosted a lunch conversation as part of the ADF “American Culture on Appeal” symposia series, moderated by The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway in Washington, D.C. The event was broadcast live by C-Span and featured these creative professionals telling their stories in their own words. Former Atlanta fire chief, Kelvin Cochran, opened up the discussion, noting that while he was not a creative professional, he knew “what it was like to lose his career over his religious beliefs.”
While you may be familiar with their stories, here are some interesting facts you might not know.
1. Blaine Adamson got into the t-shirt business because he was tired of corny Christian t-shirts.
At the symposium, Blaine Adamson, owner of the Kentucky custom t-shirt outfitter company, Hands On Originals, shared that one of his driving motivations for entering the t-shirt design business was “cheesy” Christian t-shirts. “From the beginning, it was always about the design. When we started the company, I was back in college, and I couldn’t stand Christian t-shirts – there were shirts that were a knock-off of the Coca-Cola slogan, “Have a Coke and a smile,” and people would change that to say “Have Jesus and a smile.” The shirts were so cheesy. I wanted to create something that people actually want to wear . . . when people call us now with an idea, whether it’s a Bible verse or for a Christian camp, we take that and create something that people will want to wear again, not be embarrassed by it.”
In a Bloomberg BNA piece covering the symposium, legal reporter Patrick Gregory summarized Blaine’s philosophy on t-shirt design:
[Blaine] gave Nike’s “swoosh” symbol as an example, saying it isn’t a mere checkmark. There is power behind images, and companies spend billions of dollars using t-shirts to promote messages, he said.
It should be noted that the Kentucky trial court, in ruling for Blaine, affirmed the fact that t-shirts do indeed promote messages, stating: “In short, HOO’s declination to print the shirts was based upon the message of GLSO and the Pride Festival and not on the sexual orientation of its representatives or members. In point of fact, there is nothing in the record before the Commission that the sexual orientation of any individual that had contact with HOO was ever divulged or played any part in this case.”
2. Jack Phillips’ custom cakes were featured in commercials promoting Season 2 of Cake Boss.
Jack Phillips has owned Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado for over twenty years. If you look back at commercials promoting Season Two of Cake Boss, the very popular cake artist show on TLC, those hands you see creating edible works of art are none other than Jack’s.
3. Barronelle Stutzman is a breast-cancer survivor.
Shortly after Barronelle was married years ago, she discovered she had breast cancer. Along with her faith in God, Barronelle credits that experience with building the emotional stamina to sustain her through her current situation of fighting for her religious freedom – a road that, though filled with support, has also been marked by harassment, bomb threats, and death threats.
4. Breanna and Joanna face up to six months in jail and $2500 fines PER DAY if they fail to comply with a Phoenix ordinance that forbids them from publicly speaking about their beliefs on marriage.
Breanna and Joanna are two young, millennial entrepreneurs who run a custom Phoenix art studio called Brush & Nib that specializes in custom hand-painting, hand-lettering, and calligraphy. Because of the vagueness of the Phoenix ordinance, the girls cannot talk about their beliefs on marriage at all. There is concern that if they do, they would be violation of the law, and could face the above criminal penalties.
5. All have good relationships – and a track record to back it up – with those who identify as LGBT.
Because of the discrimination he faced as an African-American rising through the fire service ranks in the 1980’s Deep South, Chief Cochran promised himself that if he were ever to be in charge of a fire house, he would make sure that “no one would ever have to go through the horrors of discrimination [he] endured because [he] was different from the majority.” When he was appointed Fire Chief for the City of Atlanta, Chief Cochran put together a strategic planning team comprised of many people groups and demographics, including two individuals who identified as LGBT – he formed this group to create the Atlanta Fire Rescue Doctrine. The Doctrine’s purpose was to establish a culture of justice and equity for members of the department and the community. One of their core values was “ism-free” – no sexism, racism, nepotism, or cronyism, to ensure a climate where everyone looked forward to coming to work each day.
Rob Ingersoll, the gentleman suing Barronelle, was a decade-long friend and customer; she gladly serves all those who walk through her shop’s doors. Over the years, Blaine Adamson has had employees who identify as LGBT; notably, two lesbian business owners, who own New Jersey’s BMP T-Shirts, a print-shop that specializes in custom LGBT-focused t-shirt design, have publicly come to Blaine’s defense.
All agree that Americans should be able to peacefully live out their convictions without threat of government punishment – no one should be forced to choose between their faith or their freedom.
Follow Alliance Defending Freedom on Facebook for updates on the “American Culture on Appeal” Symposia Series, an event series that examines culture-shaping cases at the courts. To watch previous events in this series, check out Alliance Defending Freedom’s channel on YouTube.