CASEBrush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix

Client Story
Brush & Nib Studio

In January 2015, after first meeting at a Bible study where they learned about their mutual passions for art, two young women met at a North Phoenix Starbucks over tea and hot chocolate and hatched a plan to create and sell art together. They then quickly agreed to start a calligraphy and hand-painting business. One of these women – Joanna Duka – had already left her full-time marketing job. The other – Breanna Koski – had no job, had just moved to town, and had just gotten married. Neither one had ever started a business. They had little money. They had no business background. But they did have a passion – to use their God-given talents to create beautiful artwork for others. That passion produced Brush & Nib Studio, a for-profit art studio that creates hand-drawn invitations and paintings for weddings, businesses, and everyday moments. 

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As Christian artists, Joanna and Breanna had a simple goal for their studio: to recreate the beauty God placed all around us and to share that beauty with others. And this goal made it natural for Joanna and Breanna to focus on artwork for weddings, one of the most beautiful days in someone’s life.

But this wedding focus drove Joanna and Breanna straight into a problem. Phoenix law required Brush & Nib to create and speak according to Phoenix’s definition of marriage.

As Joanna and Breanna were starting their business, they kept seeing news reports about authorities forcing Christians in the wedding industry to promote same-sex wedding ceremonies. Meanwhile, their friends began to ask them if Brush & Nib would promote same-sex wedding ceremonies. Then Joanna and Breanna saw the ensuing social media frenzy over the U.S. Supreme Court creating a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. They realized that they may not have the freedom to create art consistent with their artistic and religious beliefs. They had to find out for sure.

What they found was worse than they imagined. A Phoenix law required Brush & Nib to create invitations and other artwork for same-sex wedding ceremonies. It also prevented Brush & Nib from explaining to customers and the public why they could only create art consistent with their beliefs about marriage. And this law did all this through criminal penalties. For each day Joanna and Breanna followed their religious beliefs and disobeyed the law, they would each be penalized up to $2500 and six months in jail.

That left Joanna and Breanna with an impossible choice. They didn’t want to violate the law. They didn’t want to go to jail and pay $2500 for each day they failed to comply. They didn’t want to close the business they poured so much into. But the alternative wasn’t doable. They could not compromise their artistic and religious beliefs. They could not accept sitting down in their studio and hand-drawing artwork that contradicted who they are and what they hold dear. They could not condone lying to customers or wasting customers’ time – telling customers that Brush & Nib would create something it couldn’t. And they could not stomach staying silent about the very beliefs that inspire their art.

So Joanna and Breanna took the only viable option left. In May 2016, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on their and Brush & Nib’s behalf against Phoenix. The lawsuit alleged that Phoenix is violating Joanna, Breanna, and Brush & Nib’s rights under the Arizona Constitution and the Arizona Free Exercise of Religion Act by compelling them to create art they object to and by stopping them from discussing their artistic and religious beliefs with others. The lawsuit asked the Arizona court to give Joanna, Breanna, and Brush & Nib the freedom to create artwork consistent with their artistic and religious beliefs and to explain these beliefs to others.

Joanna, Breanna, and Brush & Nib are now waiting for the Arizona court to decide their case. In the meantime, they continue to create art reflecting God’s beauty. And they hope to soon have the freedom to only create that art and to fully explain their artistic and religious beliefs to others. 


Create Freely

Alliance Defending Freedom is here to protect the right of creative professionals to use their God-given talents in ways that are consistent with their beliefs.

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Summary
A Phoenix art studio that specializes in hand-painting, hand-lettering, and calligraphy for weddings and other events is challenging a city ordinance that forces the studio’s two young female owners to use their artistic talents to promote same-sex ceremonies. The ordinance also forbids them from publicly expressing the Christian beliefs that prevent them from doing so and that require them to create art celebrating only marriages between one man and one woman.
News Releases

Painter, calligrapher to appeal decision that allows Phoenix to control artistic expression

Religious Freedom

Painter, calligrapher to appeal decision that allows Phoenix to control artistic expression

Two Phoenix artists will appeal a court ruling released Wednesday that allows a sweeping Phoenix ordinance to stand even though it uses the threat of jail time and fines to silence their desired speech and forces them to create custom artwork expressing messages that violate their core beliefs.

Oct 26, 2017 Read More

Phoenix artists to court: Protect our expression from government control

Religious Freedom

Phoenix artists to court: Protect our expression from government control

Two Phoenix artists are heading to state court Friday to defend their artistic freedom against a sweeping Phoenix ordinance that uses the threat of jail time and fines to silence their desired speech and to force them to create custom artwork expressing messages that violate their core beliefs.

Aug 24, 2017 Read More

Artists to appeals court: Halt Phoenix ordinance that punishes artistic freedom with jail time

Religious Freedom

Artists to appeals court: Halt Phoenix ordinance that punishes artistic freedom with jail time

ADF attorneys file opening brief in challenge to ordinance that forces commissioned artists to celebrate same-sex ceremonies, gags them from expressing their views

Mar 09, 2017 Read More

Artists ask appeals court to halt Phoenix ordinance that threatens jail time for disagreeing with govt

Religious Freedom

Artists ask appeals court to halt Phoenix ordinance that threatens jail time for disagreeing with govt

Ordinance forces art studio to promote same-sex ceremonies, forbids them from communicating publicly about their views

Sep 21, 2016 Read More

Court won’t temporarily suspend Phoenix ordinance, artists may appeal

Religious Freedom

Court won’t temporarily suspend Phoenix ordinance, artists may appeal

The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Jonathan Scruggs.

Sep 19, 2016 Read More

Jail time for Phoenix artists who disagree with government?

Religious Freedom

Jail time for Phoenix artists who disagree with government?

Ordinance forces art studio to promote same-sex ceremonies, forbids them from communicating publicly about their views

May 12, 2016 Read More
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Documents
https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/docs/default-source/documents/case-documents/brush-nib-studio-v.-city-of-phoenix/brush-and-nib-superior-court-of-az-ruling-(2017-10-25).pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/docs/default-source/documents/case-documents/brush-nib-studio-v.-city-of-phoenix/brush-amp-nib-studio-v-city-of-phoenix---motion-for-summary-judgment.pdf?sfvrsn=4https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/docs/default-source/documents/case-documents/brush-nib-studio-v.-city-of-phoenix/brush-amp-nib-studio-v-city-of-phoenix---opening-brief-on-appeal.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/docs/default-source/documents/case-documents/brush-nib-studio-v.-city-of-phoenix/brush-amp-nib-studio-v-city-of-phoenix---notice-of-appeal.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/docs/default-source/documents/case-documents/brush-nib-studio-v.-city-of-phoenix/brush-amp-nib-studio-v-city-of-phoenix---trial-court-ruling-denying-motion-to-dismiss-and-motion-for-preliminary-injunction.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/docs/default-source/documents/case-documents/brush-nib-studio-v.-city-of-phoenix/brush-amp-nib-studio-v-city-of-phoenix---second-amended-verified-complaint.pdf?sfvrsn=4https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/docs/default-source/documents/case-documents/brush-nib-studio-v.-city-of-phoenix/brush-amp-nib-studio-v-city-of-phoenix---motion-for-preliminary-injunction-and-memorandum-in-support.pdf?sfvrsn=8https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/docs/default-source/documents/case-documents/brush-nib-studio-v.-city-of-phoenix/brush-amp-nib-studio-v-city-of-phoenix---complaint.pdf?sfvrsn=8
Court Title Date
Trial Court
Summary Judgment Ruling Oct 25 2017
Trial Court
Motion for summary judgment Apr 13 2017
Appellate Court
Opening brief on appeal Mar 08 2017
Trial Court
Notice of appeal Sep 21 2016
Trial Court
Trial court ruling denying motion to dismiss and motion for preliminary injunction Sep 19 2016
Trial Court
Second amended verified complaint Jul 01 2016
Trial Court
Motion for preliminary injunction and memorandum in support May 12 2016
Trial Court
Complaint May 12 2016

Commentary

Resources

Campaign: Create Freely

James Gottry: The war on wedding vendors is ultimately a war on free thought (The Federalist, 2016-11-03)

James Gottry: How the government should punish Colin Kaepernick’s anti-patriotism (The Federalist, 2016-10-12)

Jonathan Scruggs: Forced speech is un-American (Arizona Republic, 2016-10-10)

Jonathan Scruggs: Brush & Nib suit about artistic freedom (Phoenix Business Journal, 2016-06-03)

Jonathan Scruggs: Phoenix artists sue rather than create art for same sex weddings (Arizona Republic, 2016-06-03)

Video: What are "pre-enforcement challenges"?

Phoenix Municipal Code Section 18-4: Prohibited acts

Phoenix Municipal Code Section 18-7: Penalties

Phoenix Municipal Code Section 18-5: General penalty; continuing violations

Biographies