I’d like to introduce you to Joanna and Breanna.
They are two of the most passionate, loving, and faithful people you will ever meet. With a quiet strength and grace, they have endured unbelievable hate and vitriol these past few years.
Why? Because they took a stand for their right to live consistently with their religious beliefs – beliefs that some governments have labeled as unpopular and unwelcome.
Let’s take a look at these inspiring Christian women and the facts of their case.
Who: Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski of Brush & Nib Studio
Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski co-own Brush & Nib Studio, an upscale hand-painting, hand-lettering, and calligraphy company. They create and sell custom artwork—paintings, prints, business logos, wedding invitations, and more—for clients and their special events.
That wasn’t always the plan. In 2014, Joanna was laying the groundwork to open her own calligraphy business. But she felt a piece was missing. She knew she wanted to incorporate painting, but her own experiments with the medium left her frustrated. Then God brought Breanna into her life. Joanna and Breanna met at a church bible study and quickly became friends. And Breanna just happened to be a painter. Over coffee in early 2015, they decided to work together to create and sell their art. Brush & Nib Studio was born.
Now they work as a team. Joanna, a calligrapher, uses a nib to write in delicate and decorative fonts. And Breanna, a painter, uses a brush to paint beautiful, unique illustrations. “We bounce ideas off of each other,” says Joanna. “Sometimes one of us will start with a concept and the other will kind of build on it or vice versa. We may start with a lettering style, or start with an artistic idea, or a little drawing or sketch, or maybe the color will inspire it.”
Joanna and Breanna are Christians, and their faith is at the core of who they are and everything they do. They see their art as a way to reflect God’s beauty, and they pour their hearts into their custom creations. “Creating beautiful things is what I like to do,” says Breanna. “It’s a part of who I am. In every way we want to put as much of ourselves into our art as possible.”
Soon after they launched Brush & Nib, Joanna and Breanna learned about Phoenix City Code Section 18.4(B). According to city officials, this law required them to create artwork promoting events and messages that go against their faith, including same-sex marriages. But it doesn’t stop there. The law even prohibited them from explaining that they can only create artwork consistent with their artistic and religious beliefs. Joanna and Breanna faced up to six months in jail, $2,500 in fines, and three years of probation for each day that they violated this law.
Joanna and Breanna gladly serve everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, and they create art for many different occasions. But they cannot, in good conscience, promote an event that violates their conscience.
And they shouldn’t have to. Freedom of speech means that people of good will are free to live out their beliefs without government hostility or punishment. There are countless people of good will, from faith traditions as diverse as Islam and Christianity, who share Joanna and Breanna’s beliefs about marriage – that it is the union of a man and a woman. No one should be bullied or banished from the marketplace for peacefully living out that belief.
Thankfully, we as Americans don’t have to wait for an unjust and unconstitutional law to be used against us in order to seek relief. Alliance Defending Freedom filed a “pre-enforcement challenge” (a challenge to a law before it is enforced) on Brush & Nib’s behalf, asking the courts to invalidate this unconstitutional application of Phoenix’s law.
When: May 2016 – Present
ADF filed this lawsuit in May 2016.
And on September 16, 2019, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in favor of Joanna and Breanna, recognizing that Phoenix cannot force artists to express messages that violate their religious beliefs. Now, Joanna and Breanna can continue to live out their faith in their business without fear of government punishment.
Where: Phoenix, Arizona
Brush & Nib Studio is located in Phoenix, and it challenged Phoenix’s attempt to use its ordinance to compel Joanna and Breanna to create art expressing messages that violate their religious beliefs. But this is not the only law of its kind. ADF is defending creative professionals against similar laws in Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Washington.
Why: To uphold the constitutional rights of all Americans.
This case and its outcome matter to everyone. It is an important victory for religious freedom and freedom of speech – and one we can all celebrate.
After all, if the government can compel artists to speak messages and celebrate events against their faith, what’s to say it won’t seek to coerce the rest of us? A win for these creative professionals is a win for us all.
The Bottom Line
The government shouldn’t threaten artists with fines and jail time to force them to create artwork expressing messages that violate their beliefs. Thankfully, the Arizona Supreme Court agrees, and freedom is more secure today because of Joanna and Breanna’s brave stand.