The critical question of whether artists should be forced to create messages that conflict with their sincerely-held religious beliefs is being asked before the Arizona Supreme Court today.
Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski are Christians who own and operate Brush & Nib Studio in Phoenix, Arizona. They create a wide variety of custom artwork, including wedding invitations, vows, party announcements and birth announcements.
However, the City of Phoenix has a problematic law that essentially says, 'If you do this for one, you do it for all,' but in the pre-enforcement challenge to Phoenix City Code Section 18-4(B), the artists contend that Phoenix would force them to design and create custom artwork expressing messages that violate their core beliefs.
"Artists should be free to create art that is consistent with their beliefs – without fear of punishment by the government," Duka contends.
Because the two are being coerced to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs, Koski announced that they are challenging this law – not just for them, but for all artists to be able to create freely.
"The government shouldn't be telling artists what they can and cannot say," Koski argued.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing Duka and Koski in the case that is going before the Arizona Supreme Court, where Arizona state legislators, a publisher and a variety of religious groups filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of preserving artistic and religious freedom.
"In this situation, the City of Phoenix is ordering two artists to imagine from scratch, to hand-craft and then to convey messages that violate their core convictions," ADF attorney Jonathan Scruggs pointed out. "A government that can compel its citizens to say and do that can compel its citizens to say and do almost anything."
The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in Phoenix's favor.
Judge Lawrence Winthrop, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, issued his pro-LGBT verdict.
“[The artists] cannot discriminate against potential patrons based on sexual orientation," Winthrop asserted in his ruling.