A Kentucky court has ruled that under the Constitution’s speech and religion protections, a Christian T-shirt printer had the right to refuse a job that would affirm the “gay” lifestyle.
The ruling Monday from the Fayette County Circuit Court conflicts with other decisions, including in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, that have essentially told Christian business operators they must violate their religious beliefs to remain in business.
The Kentucky ruling found Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands On Originals, was fully within his rights to refuse to produce T-shirts for a “gay pride” festival in Lexington.
“The government can’t force citizens to surrender free-speech rights or religious freedom in order to run a small business, and this decision affirms that,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jim Campbell, who argued the case before the court.
“The court rightly recognized that the law protects Blaine’s decision not to print shirts with messages that conflict with his beliefs and that no sufficient reason exists for the government to coerce Blaine to act against his conscience in this way.”
In October, the Lexington Human Rights Commission ruled that Adamson violated local ordinances against discrimination by refusing to make the T-shirts.
However, the court said not so fast.
In its ruling, the court said despite the claim by the commission, Adamson was protected by the First Amendment because the refusal had nothing to do with discrimination but rather the message that would be printed on the shirts.
“In short, HOO’s declination to print the shirts was based upon the message of GLSO and the Pride Festival and not on the sexual orientation of its representatives or members,” the court said. “In point of fact, there is nothing in the record before the commission that the sexual orientation of any individual that had contact with HOO was ever divulged or played any part in this case.”
WND has assembled the “Big List of Christian Coercion” about cases in which Christians have been forced to violate their beliefs.
Right to refuse
The ruling is significant because it is the first of a recent series of rulings to affirm the right of Christians to refuse to produce a message advocating the “gay” lifestyle.
The commission decision, like similar rulings in other states involving florists and bakers, determined Christian business owners cannot refuse to participate in “gay” events.
At the same time, rulings in those states have said “gays” have the right to refuse to provide a service based on their beliefs.
WND reported in 2012 Hands On Originals was approached by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization, which asked for bids to print T-shirts but concealed the desired message.
After Hands On Originals came in with the lowest bid, GLSO disclosed the shirts were to promote a “gay” pride festival. The company subsequently declined the work, explaining that creating and publicizing messages that promoted homosexuality were incompatible with the Christian values on which the company was based.
Hands On Originals offered to find another printer that would offer the shirts for the same price by the deadline. However, the attempt at accommodation was rejected by GLSO, which charged the company was discriminating against “gays.” A complaint was filed with the Lexington Human Rights Commission.
In an interview with WND in 2012, Raymond Sexton, executive director of the commission, said “gay” owners could refuse to print anti-“gay” literature, but a Christian company refusing to print T-shirts for a “gay” event would not have the same right.
Sexton told WND that if a “gay” printing company were asked to print T-shirts for the controversial Westboro Baptist Church saying “Homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God,” the “gay” company would have the right to refuse the order.
“If the company does not approve of the message, that is a valid non-discriminatory reason to refuse the work,” he said.
He also said a black business owner would have the right to refuse to print a flyer for a Ku Klux Klan rally.
However, when asked if the same would apply to Hands On Originals if it chose not to support “gay” pride festivals yet didn’t discriminate against a person because he is “gay,” Sexton said “possibly.”
“This is a gray area, but possibly. I can’t say definitively, but it possibly could pass the test,” he said. “I would recommend they take the word ‘gay’ out of there and say they simply don’t approve of the message.”
Sexton’s comments to WND were cited in the initial filing by ADF seeking dismissal of the case.
An administrative law judge in Colorado echoed Sexton’s sentiments, saying that Jack Phillips, a Christian cake maker, could not refuse to bake a wedding cake for a pair of lesbians and ordered him to undergo “sensitivity training.”
Phillips told WND he does not discriminate based on a person’s sexual orientation, but his issue is over the message conveyed by a cake that promotes a ceremony he believes is contrary to the biblical definition of marriage. He noted that he would bake and offer to sell any other kind of cake, just not a wedding cake.
Phillips told WND there are other wedding cakes that he believes are disrespectful of the institution of marriage.
“If a straight couple came in and wanted an erotic cake, I would not do it either. I will not violate my personal standards that come from serving Jesus Christ and the Bible.”
Philips said he also refuses to bake Halloween cakes.
Campbell told WND the court’s ruling could help other Christians such as Aaron and Melissa Klein, who were recently ordered to pay $135,000 for hurting the feelings of a pair of lesbians after refusing to provide flowers for their wedding.
“There really is no difference between Adamson’s case and the others. They are basically the same case,” Campbell said.
“It remains to be seen [what] these other judges think of these arguments but it certainly will help. The underlying theme in all of these messages is our clients serve all people, but they cannot promote all messages. In this case, the judge saw taking this position is legitimate, and the Constitution protects it. We are hopeful the other courts will see that as well.”
Campbell said: “The Constitution protects expression and expression isn’t just confined to words. A symphony’s performance is an expression even though there are no words. Paintings are expressive, but there are no words in a painting. Even the burning of a flag is an expression, but, again, there are no words spoken there.”
WND reported over the weekend an attempt to block an effort to help the Kleins.
When the penalty against them was announced, supporters set up a GoFundMe page on behalf of the family. Within hours, the fund topped $100,000.
But then GoFundMe abruptly shut down the account, stating it found the campaign “to be in violation of our Terms and Conditions.”
In a statement regarding the decision, GoFundMe said the money raised thus far will still be made available for withdrawal.
The fundraising site explained that the Memories Pizza campaign — which raised more than $840,000 for the Christian-owned company in Indiana that had been forced to shut down because owners said they would be unwilling to cater a same-sex celebration if asked — was allowed, because no laws were violated.
“However, the subjects of the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign have been formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts,” GoFundMe said. “Accordingly, the campaign has been disabled.”
A new fundraising site can be found at Samaritan’s Purse.
Why I will defy recognition of same-sex ‘marriage’ by Rick Scarborough