BLOGFreedom For All: Why Two Artists’ Stand Should Matter to Everyone

By Sarah Kramer Posted on: | March 09, 2017

UPDATE: Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed their opening brief on appeal asking an Arizona appeals court to halt a Phoenix ordinance that punishes artistic freedom with jail time. 

If you asked Joanna Duka two years ago what she thought her biggest challenge would be in the near future, she might have said starting a business. But she probably never imagined that in the upcoming months, she would be going before an Arizona court to ask that she receive the freedom to run that business according to her artistic and religious beliefs.

But that is exactly what she and co-owner Breanna Koski are doing.

Breanna and Joanna started Brush & Nib Studio in 2015 after meeting at a church Bible study. They specialize in custom painting, hand-lettering, and calligraphy for weddings and other events. It is their mutual faith and love of beauty – two things they see as intrinsically connected – that make the business what it is.

But a Phoenix, Arizona law says they are not free to run their business according to their artistic and religious beliefs. The law requires them to create artwork promoting events and messages that go against their faith, including same-sex marriages.  The law even prohibits them from explaining that they can only create artwork consistent with their artistic and religious beliefs.  And if they act on their beliefs by declining to participate in a same-sex wedding or expressing their religious beliefs about marriage, they could be punished under this law.

It’s not a small penalty either. The choice is this: either violate their conscience and create art against their beliefs or Phoenix can put them in jail for six months and fine them up to $2,500 for each day they don’t comply with the law.

And while Breanna and Joanna would happily serve anyone for countless occassions, they cannot use their God-given artistic talents to promote an event that goes against their faith.

So, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, Breanna and Joanna are challenging that law. They are asking an Arizona court to invalidate this law because it violates the Arizona Constitution and takes away their right to live, work, speak, and create according to their beliefs.

Can they do that?

What ADF is helping Breanna and Joanna do is called a “pre-enforcement challenge,” which challenges a law before it is enforced against them. In other words, this law directly threatens to take away their constitutional and statutory rights, so we are asking the court to resolve this problem by stopping Phoenix from enforcing the law against them.

Here’s another example: You might remember the Knapps in Couer d’Alene, Idaho – two ordained ministers who were told they must perform same-sex weddings or be punished under a law similar to the Phoenix law Breanna and Joanna are challenging. The Knapps knew they would have to turn down requests to officiate same-sex weddings because of their religious beliefs. So, ADF filed a lawsuit against the city to ensure that their right to live consistently with their beliefs is protected. Thankfully, the City changed course shortly after the filing and agreed not to punish the Knapps.

What’s at stake?

The freedom of all Americans to live, work, speak, and create consistently with their beliefs is at stake in this case.

If the court rules against Breanna and Joanna, stating that they are not allowed to live, work, speak, and create according to their beliefs, who’s to say that you will not be the next person forced to compromise your beliefs – regardless of what those beliefs might be. If the government can decide which beliefs are permissible and which are not in the public square, then that is a loss for everyone.

You can learn more about Breanna and Joanna’s case here.

Help Protect Your Right to Live Consistently with Your Faith
The movement to force people of faith to violate their conscience must be stopped. If you are a creative professional, or know one, download this free resource to learn more about how you can take steps to protect your business. 

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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