If you’ve ever started a business (or know someone who has), you know what a rollercoaster it can be. It’s scary. It takes courage. There are plenty of twists and turns that you never see coming. Despite these challenges, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski launched Brush & Nib Studio in 2015.
With a goal to create authentic artwork that echoes God’s perfect and true beauty, these young entrepreneurs began creating artistic pieces incorporating beautiful paintings and calligraphy to celebrate some of life’s most important events.
But it didn’t take long until Joanna and Breanna experienced their first twist and turn. And it came from an unexpected place: their local government.
Here’s the issue. While Joanna and Breanna gladly serve all people, they cannot use their imaginations and artistic talents to design and create custom artwork expressing messages that conflict with their religious beliefs. But the City of Phoenix is saying they must do precisely that.
You see, because Joanna and Breanna believe that God designed marriage as a union between one man and one woman, they cannot create artwork celebrating any other ideas about marriage. Yet Phoenix says that if they create artwork celebrating marriages between one man and one woman, they must also create artwork celebrating same-sex marriage—even though doing so would violate their consciences.
Think about that for a moment. By this same standard, the government could force a Democratic singer to perform at a fundraiser for the Republican Party and a Muslim graphics designer to create promotional materials for a Jewish synagogue.
And it gets even worse. Phoenix not only seeks to compel Joanna and Breanna to express messages contrary to their beliefs, but also prohibits them from publicly explaining how their religious beliefs impact the artwork they can create.
And get this: If Joanna and Breanna stay true to their beliefs, Phoenix could fine them $2,500 and even sentence them to up to six months in jail for each day they are found to be in violation of the law.
Obviously, Joanna and Breanna do not want to go to jail. But violating their religious beliefs is not an option for these two Christian artists. They needed to take action. So, Joanna and Breanna decided to challenge Phoenix’s unjust stance in court.
Unfortunately, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Phoenix. Now, Joanna and Breanna find themselves at the Arizona Supreme Court. Tomorrow, the court will hear oral arguments in their case.
That will be a big day for Joanna and Breanna. The outcome of their case will determine whether they can create artwork consistent with their religious beliefs or whether they must stop creating the wedding artwork that they love—and face the prospect of shutting down the business they so bravely started.
Beyond that, the court’s decision could either remind the nation of the critical importance of freedom of speech and religion or severely constrain those fundamental freedoms.
Everyone should be free to live and work consistent with their faith. And that is exactly what is at stake in this case. Please pray for Joanna and Breanna during this critical time tomorrow. Their religious freedom—and yours—could depend on it.
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.