Blaine Adamson is just a regular guy, similar to you and me.
He has a home in Kentucky, where he lives with his wife and kids. He’s a small business owner. His family is involved in their local church. And he roots for the University of Kentucky (particularly their basketball team).
But unlike you and me, Blaine has been involved in a lawsuit for the past seven years, fighting for the right to live and work consistently with his beliefs.
Here’s his story.
Who: Blaine Adamson – Owner of Hands On Originals
Blaine has a passion for creating T-shirts that inspire people—shirts with designs that people can’t wait to put on.
“From the beginning, it was always about the design.” He recalls cheesy Christian shirts that he’s seen: “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.”
Blaine became the managing owner of Hands On Originals in 2008.
When Blaine took the reins, Hands On Originals was half a million dollars in debt. The business was failing, and Blaine worried that it might have to shut down. After trying everything he knew, Blaine gave everything over to God. “I said, ‘God I’ve tried everything... I just need help. I need your help, or this [business] is done,’” Blaine recalls.
The orders started pouring in. By 2011, Blaine wrote the check that paid off all of Hands On Originals’ debt – for which he gives God all the credit.
Then came 2012…
In 2012, Blaine got a phone call from the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO). The group wanted Hands On Originals to print shirts promoting the local pride festival.
Blaine determined that he could not print those shirts because they express messages in conflict with his faith. But he offered to connect the GLSO to another print shop that would create the shirts for the same price he would have charged.
This wasn’t an unusual thing for him to do. Blaine often does the same thing for projects with messages that conflict with his beliefs. From 2010 to 2012 alone, Hands On Originals declined at least 13 orders because of their messages, including shirts promoting a violent message, shirts promoting a strip club, and pens promoting a sexually explicit video.
While Blaine serves every person, he cannot express every message. That’s why he offered to connect the GLSO to another print shop that he knew would create the shirts.
But that was not enough for the GLSO.
The GLSO publicized Blaine’s decision, which led to protests and boycotts against Hands On Originals. Blaine received hateful emails, phone calls, and Facebook comments. And several large customers began pulling their business. The GLSO also filed a discrimination complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, which ruled against Blaine and ordered him to undergo “diversity training” and print messages that conflict with his religious beliefs.
Since then, Alliance Defending Freedom has been representing Blaine, asking that the courts uphold his religious freedom.
When: 2012 - Present
The GLSO filed a complaint against Blaine in 2012. Since then, two courts have ruled in Blaine’s favor.
The Fayette County Circuit Court’s ruling stated that “[t]here is no evidence in this record that [Hands on Originals] HOO or its owners refused to print the t-shirts in question based upon the sexual orientation of GLSO or its members or representatives that contacted HOO. Rather, it is clear beyond dispute that HOO and its owners declined to print the t-shirts in question because of the MESSAGE advocating sexual activity outside of a marriage between one man and one woman.” And a Kentucky appeals court agreed.
But the case was appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court in June 2017. ADF filed its opening brief with the Kentucky Supreme Court in April 2018, and it will hear his case on August 23, 2019.
Where: Lexington, Kentucky
Hands On Originals is in Lexington, Kentucky. The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission is the government entity that has gone after Blaine for operating his business consistently with his faith.
Why: To stand for the right of all people to live and work consistently with their beliefs.
If the government can tell Blaine what to create, it can do the same to any of us. And if the government can do that, then we do not have true freedom.
That’s something two lesbian owners of a print shop in New Jersey understand, and they went on national television to support Blaine. The kind of coercion that the government seeks to impose in Blaine’s case violates the constitutional freedoms of creative professionals.
The Bottom Line
No matter what you believe, we should all be able to agree that the government should not have the power to force anyone to express messages that they disagree with.
Lorie Smith could use some clarity—as could creative professionals across the country.
The court ruled 2-1 that the state of Colorado can force Lorie to design and publish websites promoting messages that violate her religious beliefs.