A decision yesterday out of Arizona's highest court is being viewed as a big win for artistic freedom.
The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Monday that the city of Phoenix cannot use a criminal law to force two artists to design and create custom wedding invitations expressing messages that conflict with their core beliefs.
"Such coercion, the court held, would violate the fundamental principle that an individual has autonomy over his or her speech and thus may not be forced to speak a message he or she does not wish to say," says Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the law firm representing Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio. (See earlier related stories)
This was a pre-emptive challenge, meaning the artists were challenging the local ordinance before they were found guilty of violating the ordinance, which requires fines and even jail time for guilty parties. (See video below of statements from Duka and Koski)
"Everyone should be free to peacefully live and work according to their beliefs without fear of unjust punishment," Duka said at a press conference after the Arizona Supreme Court's ruling. "We brought our case to protect this freedom, not just for ourselves, but for all Americans."
"Our Christian beliefs inspire and guide our lives" added Koski. "They are why we love and serve everyone, and they are also why we cannot create custom artwork expressing certain messages – regardless of who asks."
Koski acknowledged that some people may not like their personal values or the artistic decisions that she and Duka make. "But that's not what today's decision is about," she continued. "It's about who should decide what artists say through their artwork – artists or the government."
ADF attorney Jonathan Scruggs acknowledged that Americans disagree on many issues. "But we should agree on the freedom to disagree," he added. "Americans should be free to choose which messages to promote."