Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

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.

Artistic freedom at heart of case Arizona Supreme Court will hear Tuesday

Press conference following oral arguments in case that challenges Phoenix ordinance
Friday, January 18, 2019


WHO: Brush & Nib Studio owners Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs

WHAT: Press conference following oral arguments in Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix

WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 22, immediately following oral arguments, which begin at 10:15 a.m. MST

WHERE: Arizona Supreme Court, 1501 W. Washington St., Phoenix, outside of State Courts Building, north side. (Hearing will be held in the Supreme Court Courtroom on 4th floor.)

PHOENIX – Under threat of up to six months jail time, two artists will be at the Arizona Supreme Court Tuesday seeking to stop a sweeping Phoenix criminal law that forces them to design and create custom artwork expressing messages that violate their core beliefs. Artists Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, and their attorney who will argue before the court on their behalf, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs, will hold a press conference following the oral arguments.

The civil liberties lawsuit, Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix, challenges the ordinance because Phoenix interprets its law in a way that illegally controls artistic expression and disregards religious liberty—violating the freedom of Duka and Koski to choose which messages they will convey and refrain from conveying consistent with their beliefs.

“The government shouldn’t threaten artists with jail time and fines to force them to create art that violates their beliefs,” said Scruggs. “Joanna and Breanna work with all people; they just don’t promote all messages. They, like all creative professionals, should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment. Instead, government must protect the freedom of artists to choose which messages to express through their own creations. Because the Arizona Constitution protects the freedom of creative professionals to choose for themselves what art they will create, we are asking the Supreme Court to rule in favor of Joanna and Breanna. If we want to have freedom and tolerance for ourselves, we need to extend it to others.”

“Courts have long recognized individuals’ right ‘to hold a point of view different from the majority and to refuse to foster…an idea they find morally objectionable…,” the most recent brief ADF attorneys filed with the Arizona Supreme Court explains. “Yet Phoenix tramples that right when it requires a calligrapher to pick up her pen and a painter her brush, and then, under threat of jail and crippling fines, forces them to conceive and then create original artwork expressing messages that violate their core religious convictions. Such government compulsion violates the fundamental liberty ‘to refrain from speaking….’”

“Phoenix says this liberty is novel and dangerous; it is actually narrow and unexceptional…,” the brief continues. “And Joanna and Breanna, the artists and owners of Brush & Nib Studio, are entitled to exercise it. These women of deep religious faith gladly serve everyone, including those in the LGBT community; their faith simply prevents them from expressing certain messages for anyone. So this case is not about whether businesses can decline to serve an entire class of people. It is about whether artists can freely choose which messages their own art conveys.”

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, City Code Section 18-4(B), in a way that forces artists, like Duka and Koski, to use their artistic talents to celebrate and promote same-sex marriage in violation of their beliefs, even when they decide what art they create based on the art’s message, not the requester’s personal characteristics. 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.

Numerous state attorneys general, Arizona lawmakers, various scholars, and a diverse array of business, artistic, and faith-based groups last month filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the Arizona Supreme Court in support of Duka and Koski and preserving artistic and religious freedom.

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

Scroll down to view additional resources pertaining to this case and its surrounding issue.
Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Previous news releases:

  • 2018-12-21: Broad support for artistic freedom at Arizona Supreme Court
  • 2018-11-20: Arizona Supreme Court takes up artistic freedom case
  • 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?

  • Jonathan Scruggs: Phoenix artists shouldn’t be punished for their beliefs (Phoenix Business Journal, 2019-01-18)
  • Kate Anderson: Artistic freedom for all is a First Amendment right that needs protection (Arizona Capitol Times, 2019-01-10)
  • 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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