Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix

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Friday, July 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.


Facing threat of jail time, Arizona artists ask state Supreme Court to protect their freedom

ADF attorneys represent creators of custom artwork in challenge to Phoenix ordinance
Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Brush & Nib Studio - Fonts - Sound Bites - B-roll

PHOENIX – Under threat of up to six months jail time, two artists asked the Arizona Supreme Court Monday to take up their challenge to a sweeping city of Phoenix criminal law that forces them to design and create custom artwork expressing messages that violate their core beliefs.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing artists Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, are asking the high court to take the case because the Phoenix ordinance illegally controls artistic expression—violating the freedom of Duka and Koski to choose which messages they will convey and refrain from conveying. In a ruling last month, the Arizona Court of Appeals allowed the law to stand.

“Artists shouldn’t be forced to create artwork contrary to their core convictions, and certainly not under threat of criminal fines and jail time,” 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. Breanna and Joanna are happy to design custom art for all people; they simply object to being forced to pour their heart, soul, imagination, and talent into creating messages that violate their conscience.”

“The court’s decision allows the government to compel two artists who happily serve everyone to convey a message about marriage they disagree with. This contradicts basic freedoms our nation has always cherished,” Scruggs said.

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.

The city’s ordinance 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 pre-enforcement challenge to Phoenix City Code Section 18-4(B), a public accommodation law, 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 though they decide what art they can create based on the art’s message, not the requester’s personal characteristics.

“If Joanna and Breanna politely decline to create custom artwork celebrating same-sex weddings or publish their desired statement [explaining how their religious beliefs prevent them from creating certain artwork], Phoenix will prosecute them…,” the petition ADF attorneys filed with the Arizona Supreme Court in Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix explains. “But the [Court of Appeals] upheld this application as consistent with Arizona’s free-speech and free-exercise protections. This Court should grant this petition to clarify whether public accommodation laws trump free-speech and free-exercise rights, to correct the COA’s narrow understanding of these important freedoms, and to align Arizona’s jurisprudence with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.”

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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Friday, July 20, 2018

Previous news releases:

  • 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)

Legal documents, related news, and other related resources available in the right panel when this page is viewed at ADFmedia.org.