Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Description:  A Phoenix art studio that specializes in hand-painting, hand-lettering, and calligraphy for weddings and other events is challenging a city ordinance that forces the studio’s two owners to use their artistic talents to promote same-sex ceremonies. The ordinance also forbids them from publicly expressing the Christian beliefs that prevent them from doing so and that require them to create art celebrating only marriages between one man and one woman.


Arizona Supreme Court takes up artistic freedom case

State high court will hear challenge to Phoenix law that threatens jail time for artists who abide by their beliefs
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Brush & Nib sound bites and B-roll

PHOENIX – The Arizona Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to take up a pivotal artistic and religious freedom case. The case, Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix, involves two artists who risk jail time and fines if they violate a sweeping Phoenix criminal law that forces them to design and create custom artwork expressing messages that violate their core beliefs.

In a June ruling, the Arizona Court of Appeals decided to allow the city to override Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski’s artistic and religious decisions about what messages to convey through their hand-painted and hand-lettered artwork. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Duka and Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, then asked the high court to take the case because Phoenix’s position and the lower court’s decision violate fundamental principles of freedom of speech and religion. State legislators and other third parties also filed their own briefs with the court to encourage it to take the case.

“No one should be forced to create artwork contrary to their core convictions, and certainly not under threat of criminal fines and jail time. That is what’s at stake in this case, and we hope that the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision will protect artistic and religious freedom for everyone,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs, who argued the case before the Arizona Court of Appeals. “The government must allow artists to make their own decisions about which messages they will promote. Joanna and Breanna are happy to design custom art for anyone; they simply object to being forced to pour their heart, soul, imagination, and talent into creating messages that violate their conscience.”
 
Duka and Koski specialize in creating custom artwork using hand painting, hand lettering, and calligraphy to celebrate weddings and other events. The women’s religious convictions guide them in determining which messages they can and cannot promote through their custom artwork.

Phoenix interprets its ordinance in a way that forces the two artists to use their artistic talents to celebrate and promote same-sex marriage in violation of their beliefs. It also bans them from publicly communicating what custom artwork they can and cannot create consistent with their faith. The law threatens up to six months in jail, $2,500 in fines, and three years of probation for each day that there is a violation.

In the case, a pre-enforcement challenge to Phoenix City Code Section 18-4(B), ADF attorneys argue that the ordinance violates the Arizona Constitution and Arizona’s Free Exercise of Religion Act. Phoenix officials have interpreted the ordinance to force artists, like Duka and Koski, to create objectionable art, even when they decide what art they can create based on the art’s message, not the requester’s personal characteristics.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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Additional resources: Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Previous news releases:

  • 2018-10-01: Legislators, publisher, religious groups voice support for artistic freedom at Arizona Supreme Court
  • 2018-07-10: Facing threat of jail time, Arizona artists ask state Supreme Court to protect their freedom
  • 2018-06-07: Artists intend to appeal Arizona Court ruling rejecting artistic freedom
  • 2018-04-23: Facing threat of jail time, artists appeal to court: ‘Protect our expression from govt control’
  • 2017-11-21: Phoenix artists to appeals court: Protect our expression from govt control
  • 2017-10-25: Painter, calligrapher to appeal decision that allows Phoenix to control artistic expression
  • 2017-08-24: Phoenix artists to court: Protect our expression from government control
  • 2017-03-09: Artists to appeals court: Halt Phoenix ordinance that punishes artistic freedom with jail time
  • 2016-09-21: Artists ask appeals court to halt Phoenix ordinance that threatens jail time for disagreeing with govt
  • 2016-09-19: Court won’t temporarily suspend Phoenix ordinance, artists may appeal
  • 2016-05-12: Jail time for Phoenix artists who disagree with government?

Commentary:
  • Joanna Duka & Breanna Koski: What we create is an extension of who we are (Arizona Republic, 2018-07-20)
  • Jonathan Scruggs: Freedom of speech is on a roll, but not in Arizona (Arizona Capitol Times, 2018-07-12)
  • James Gottry: The war on wedding vendors is ultimately a war on free thought (The Federalist, 2016-11-03)
  • James Gottry: How the government should punish Colin Kaepernick’s anti-patriotism (The Federalist, 2016-10-12)
  • Jonathan Scruggs: Forced speech is un-American (Arizona Republic, 2016-10-10)
  • Jonathan Scruggs: Brush & Nib suit about artistic freedom (Phoenix Business Journal, 2016-06-03)
  • Jeremy Tedesco: Phoenix artists sue rather than create art for same sex weddings (Arizona Republic, 2016-06-03)

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