Phoenix Ordinance Compels Business Owners to Violate Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs

You wouldn’t print a wedding invitation in Comic Sans font.

A wedding is a serious event with lasting impact upon the lives of all who attend. That’s why many couples choose to hire artists who can give their celebration a calligraphic lift when sending wedding invitations and notices.

Calligraphy takes talent and skill, and Arizona artists Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski have both. They met at a Bible study, and soon found that their mutual talents and friendship were the perfect combination to begin a business. Thus began in 2015 Brush & Nib Studio, a place where Joanna and Breanna could express the artistic gifts God had given them for the benefit of their clients, many of whom were seeking projects for their weddings.

But in the new landscape of court-created same-sex marriage, Joanna and Breanna quickly found that their deeply-held biblical beliefs about marriage were unwelcome in the Phoenix wedding scene. As FRC’s Travis Weber explained,

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“With the business’s focus on weddings, the two artists became concerned that their views of marriage conflicted with a city ordinance that defined marriage differently. In fact, the Phoenix law seemed to not only require Brush & Nib to create invitations or other forms of artwork for same-sex weddings, the ordinance also prevented the company from discussing with potential customers or the general public that the artists would only create art consistent with their beliefs.”

As Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) notes, the penalties for following their deeply-held beliefs about marriage in conjunction with their business were criminal: “For each day Joanna and Breanna followed their religious beliefs and disobeyed the law, they would each be penalized up to $2500 and six months in jail.”

Instead of waiting for an inevitable lawsuit to reach their door, Joanna and Breanna decided to take a proactive step and challenge the oppressive Phoenix ordinance with a lawsuit. In May 2016, ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Joanna and Breanna against the City of Phoenix. A lower court ruled against the couple in 2017 that Phoenix could indeed force them to violate their beliefs. Today, the pair will have their day in court again as oral arguments for their appeal are heard.

It’s a scene that’s becoming all-too familiar around the country: government policies forcing business owners to create speech that conflicts with their deeply-held beliefs. This is an important case, one that highlights the fact that no person will be left alone to mind their business. The handwriting is on the wall.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law. (Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

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