A Kentucky appeals court has ruled that the government cannot force a Christian printer to make T-shirts for a gay pride event after the government previously stepped in and punished the businessowner for refusing to do so.
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The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled 2-to-1 that Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands on Originals, a print shop based in Lexington, Kentucky, is correct in his argument that being forced to create the T-shirts was a violation of his religious beliefs, according to the Becket, a law firm devoted to the defense of religious liberty.
“The court agreed with Becket, top legal scholars, and LGBT business owners, who all stood up for the rights of artists to choose what messages they would promote, without fear of government punishment,” the firm said in a statement. “(The) ruling emphasized that ‘the ‘service’ [the printer] offers is the promotion of messages. The ‘conduct’ [the printer] chose not to promote was pure speech.'”
This is the second court ruling in Adamson’s favor after a Fayette County Circuit Court ruling found that the human rights commission was incorrect to force the printer to make shirts for the pride parade.
The Lexington Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission appealed that ruling, yielding today’s court decision.
Problems began for Adamson, who is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm, after he was asked in 2012 by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) to make shirts for a local gay pride event. He declined and offered to help the group find other printers who might be willing to do so — but that did little to temper controversy and consternation.
The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization then turned to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission and filed a complaint, with the government responding by mandating that Adamson print the shirts and that his staff attend diversity training.
The government argued that Adamson “had discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in violation of Section 2-33,” a local ordinance.
But Adamson, who employs and does business with gay individuals, has consistently argued that he wasn’t discriminating against people and was, instead, declining to print messages with which he disagrees.
“I want God to find joy in what we do and how we work, how we treat our employees, and the messages we print,” he said, according to Alliance Defending Freedom. “So if someone walks in and says, ‘Hey, I want you to help promote something,’ I can’t promote something that I know goes against what pleases Him.'”
Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jim Campbell echoed these sentiments in a statement announcing victory on Friday, saying that Americans should be afforded “the freedom to believe, the freedom to express those beliefs, and the freedom to not express ideas that would violate their conscience.”
It is unclear what will happen next, though the Human Rights Commission said it will review the case to see if it is worth appealing to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
As for Adamson, he told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he has no problem making shirts for gays and lesbians, so long as those items do not carry messaging that promotes homosexuality.
“I don’t leave my faith at the door when I walk into my business,” he said. “In my case, fortunately, the legal system worked.”
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