Huge Victory In Kentucky Religious Freedom Case
In 2012, Blaine Adamson, the owner of Hands On Originals, a Kentucky-based print company, was approached by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) to produce shirts for a gay pride event.
Adamson declined out of respect for his faith, and "nevertheless offered to connect the GLSO to another printer who would create the shirts for the same price that he would have charged," according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
In response, however, the GLSO’s president filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission alleging sexual orientation discrimination.
The Human Rights Commission found Adamson guilty of discrimination, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader, claiming that his "service refusal violated the city’s fairness ordinance, part of which prohibits businesses which are open to the public from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation."
The Blaze reports:
A recommended ruling at the time called for Hands On Originals to no longer discriminate based on gender identity or sexuality, and to also force some employees to go through diversity training.
Adamson objected to the Commission's ruling, sending the case to the Fayette County Circuit Court, which reversed the decision. However, the case was then taken to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Fortunately for Adamson, the appeals court has ruled 2-1 in his favor.
Chief Judge Joy Kramer wrote in her May 12, 2017, majority opinion:
The right of free speech does not guarantee to any person the right to use someone else’s property...
In other words, the ‘service’ Hands On Originals offers is the promotion of messages...The ‘conduct’ Hands On Originals chose not to promote was pure speech.
There is no contention that Hands On Originals is a public forum in addition to a public accommodation. Nothing in the fairness ordinance prohibits Hands On Originals, a private business, from engaging in viewpoint or message censorship.
Alliance Defending Freedom, the law firm representing Adamson, issued a statement on the day of the ruling, which reads in part:
Thankfully, a Kentucky appellate court has recognized Blaine’s constitutional freedom not to print messages that he disagrees with. Today the court affirmed the Fayette Circuit Court’s ruling that Blaine, managing owner of Hands On Originals (HOO) in Lexington, Kentucky, is free to decide for himself the ideas and messages he wants to express...
Both Blaine and HOO regularly do business with and employ people who identify as LGBT. His decision not to print the shirts was because of the message that the shirts would promote. It had nothing to do with any characteristic of the person requesting them.
No matter what you believe, we should all be able to agree that the government should not have the power to force anyone to express or promote ideas that they disagree with.
Lesbian owners of a print shop in New Jersey, who went on national television to support Blaine, also recognize that being pressured into violating your conscience is not right. This kind of coercion violates the constitutional freedoms of creative professionals who make a living by creating custom materials.
The court’s ruling is a huge win for freedom of conscience, and we will continue to defend Blaine should his case be appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court. In the meantime, it is our hope that other courts will uphold the freedom of other creative professionals nationwide who are having to fight for this same freedom.
This was certainly an incredible victory, and it should be celebrated, but vigilance must be maintained as we wage the much larger ideological war for continued freedom of religion and conscience. This was indeed just one victory in a sea of losses. Christian business owners in multiple states have lost this very same battle as freedom of religion in the United States has been peeled back layer by layer.
The following is a brief video in which Blaine Adamson explains his case (via ADF):