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Supreme Court of the United States

Arizona Court to Artists: If Government Says Create, You Create

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
October 26, 2017

Their faith brought them together. But it’s the very thing the government is demanding they leave out of their business.

Over two-and-a-half years ago, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski met at a North Phoenix Starbucks over tea and hot chocolate to discuss the possibility of going into business together. They had met at church and learned that they both had an interest in creating art – Joanna’s craft is calligraphy and Breanna’s is painting.

It was then that Brush & Nib Studio was born.

Joanna and Breanna specialize in designing custom announcements for the special events in their clients’ lives – weddings, graduations, births, and other events. Joanna and Breanna pour their creativity and passion into these projects to create something unique that reflects their clients’ joy. And in doing so, they get to experience and express that joy alongside them.

But a Phoenix ordinance threatens their business. 

And on Wednesday, an Arizona lower court upheld the ordinance, which states if they create custom artwork for a wedding between one man and one woman, they must also create custom artwork for a same-sex wedding. On top of that, the ordinance also forbids them from explaining their religious beliefs about marriage on their website. If they refuse to comply, they face steep fines and even jail time.

As Christians, Joanna and Breanna believe that marriage, as God designed it, is the sacred union of one man and one woman. And it symbolizes the relationship between Christ and the Church.

Any way you paint it, this ordinance is a major violation of their artistic expression. The government should never force artists to use their artistic talents to celebrate an event or express a message that contradicts their beliefs. And we will appeal this decision.

That’s the very principle our client Jack Phillips is fighting for at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jack owns a cakeshop in Colorado, and he was sued for declining to design a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. In his artistic endeavors, he is guided by his beliefs, which is why he has declined to create Halloween cakes and cakes celebrating divorce – and it’s why he declined the cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.

Jack’s case could greatly affect Joanna and Breanna’s case, and the Court will hear his case on December 5.

If the government can tell us what events to celebrate and what messages to express through our art, that should concern us all.

Jack, Joanna, and Breanna represent a growing number of Christian creative professionals who are asking for their artistic expression to be protected. And Alliance Defending Freedom is working at every level of the legal system to defend these rights, from defending Joanna and Breanna at the state level to defending Jack at the Supreme Court. 

We must defend their rights if we expect the same freedom.


To learn more about our efforts to defend Christian creative professionals, visit the link below. 

Learn More


Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

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

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