Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix

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Monday, October 01, 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.


Legislators, publisher, religious groups voice support for artistic freedom at Arizona Supreme Court

State high court receives briefs in support of taking up case of Phoenix artists challenging law that threatens jail time for abiding by their beliefs
Monday, October 01, 2018

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

PHOENIX – Arizona state legislators, a publisher, and a variety of religious groups filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the Arizona Supreme Court on Friday in support of preserving artistic and religious freedom. Specifically, the briefs support two Phoenix artists who face fines and up to six months of jail time if they violate a sweeping 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, asked the high court in July to take the case because Phoenix interprets its ordinance in a way that illegally controls artistic expression and tramples religious liberty—violating the freedom of Duka and Koski to choose which messages they will convey and refrain from conveying consistent with their religious beliefs. In a June ruling, the Arizona Court of Appeals decided to allow Phoenix to override Duka and Koski’s artistic and religious decisions.

“As the briefs filed last week affirm, no one should 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. 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.”

“These briefs are asking the Arizona Supreme Court to consider critical questions and provide Arizonans with needed clarity about their fundamental freedoms,” said ADF Legal Counsel Samuel Green. “Related questions have received the attention of the highest courts of multiple states and even the U.S. Supreme Court in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. This matter warrants the Arizona Supreme Court’s attention as well.”

As the brief filed by state legislators points out, “Given the happy variety of Arizonans’ backgrounds in our state melting pot, the question posed in this case could take the following forms out [of] a myriad: May Arizona’s government require a fine art painter with a public portraiture business and who is a self-avowed feminist to create a portrait that features the denigration of women? May Arizona’s government force a Muslim cartoonist who openly commissions his work to the public to accept a request to create a cartoon image of the Quran’s desecration? Perhaps Arizona’s government may require a Jewish sculptor for hire to create a work denigrating the Torah? … This is no parade of horribles, no hyperbole; they are permissible consequences of affirming the [Court of Appeals].”

Other parties filing briefs asking the Arizona Supreme Court to consider Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix include the Center for Religious Expression, the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, Tyndale House Publishers, and the National Center for Law & Policy.

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 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.

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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Monday, October 01, 2018

Previous news releases:

  • 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)

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