By: Steven Bonica, ADF Ambassador
I have read a lot about the two artists from Arizona, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, and what they have endured for nearly three years simply for wanting to live and work consistently with their religious beliefs. They have challenged a Phoenix law that threatens them with fines and even jail time if they decline to use their artistic talents to celebrate events that violate their faith.
When I heard their stories, I realized then that the freedom sought by Joanna and Breanna benefits not only them, but also all Christian artists of today’s generation and for generations to come in the land of the free.
The importance of that freedom cannot be understated!
After hearing about Joanna and Breanna’s story, I could not help but think of the atrocities committed by the Communists in Romania and other parts of the Soviet-influenced eastern European countries. Millions of people were imprisoned, tortured, mutilated, and even killed, for refusing to accept the atheist propaganda and give up their faith.
Growing up in Communist Romania
I was born and raised in communist Romania under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. Because of the mistreatment and persecution for our Christian faith, my parents and I left the country in the summer of 1984 as political refugees and came to the United States.
Three years later, while I was visiting a Romanian church in Chicago, I met a beautiful, intelligent, and kind Romanian girl who also came to United States with her family for religious freedom. We got married just a few short months later.
One evening, as we were talking around the dinner table, I found out about her maternal grandfather — a Christian artist who refused to give in to the pressure of the communist authorities and unceasingly painted Bible verses with floral designs. His paintings meant more than you can imagine because they surfaced at a time when revival through persecution was convicting Christians to keep their eyes on Jesus and His Word.
One dark night, on March 13, 1959, Gheorghe Chisu was picked up from his home by the Secret Police and taken to the police station.
Never mind the fact that he was a peaceful man of no threat to anyone, who never broke the law, minded his own business, and cared for his wife and their five children — that night he was treated as one of the worst enemies of the Communist state of Romania.
Their house was searched for Bibles, religious song books, and Christian literature. Gheorghe and his wife were beaten in front of their children. The oldest son tried to plead with the authorities but was slapped across the face and thrown against the wall.
For the next eight months, Gheorghe was held under arrest, interrogated, and beaten numerous times. Finally, his trial was set for November 19. On the day of his trial, Gheorghe and 39 other Christian leaders were sentenced to imprisonment for six years! All of Gheorghe’s assets and personal property were confiscated by the government.
In the summer of 1964, Gheorghe Chisu was released from prison with all his brothers of faith one year early, on a presidential decree of pardon issued to impress the Americans with the “goodwill” of the dictator. Hardly recognizable, toothless, and malnourished, Gheorghe finally returned home. His numerous illnesses from the days of his imprisonment made the rest of his life a prolonged pain of endurance, yet his faith grew stronger knowing that God had granted him his prayers and he was able to see his family again. Even though he was never able to paint again, he rejoiced in seeing the sunrise and the sundown surrounded by his family.
To this day, my wife remembers the quiet man who never spoke of his imprisonment and never had anything bad to say about anyone; the family’s patriarch who could be seen in prayer just about every hour, petitioning God for grace and freedom for the church in Romania. Unfortunately, he died before Communism was toppled and the Church regained its freedom.
Why I Volunteer with ADF
As I read about Joanna and Breanna and learn about their case from their attorneys and staff from Alliance Defending Freedom, I realized once again why I have joined this amazing organization as a volunteer:
I will not sit around with my arms crossed and watch the government take away our freedom.
I think of my daughters, Stephanie and Rebecca, both blessed with unique artistic talents – gifted painters and designers who have just begun to launch themselves into the real world and marketplace. What is to become of them should they ever be forced to make use of their talents for an event that violates their Christian values and personal convictions?
In this country, we should be free to live and work consistently with our faith without fear of government punishment.
Joanna and Breanna are taking a stand for that freedom. And I am proud to stand alongside ADF as a volunteer with its Ambassador program as it defends freedom for these women, for me, for my daughters, and for generations to come.
Learn More about the ADF Ambassador Program