Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski
Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of the Brush & Nib Studio in Phoenix, would “love to chat with you” providing that you are not gay

American Family Association’s news blog is running with ADF: Something wrong when artists face jail time. ADF is Alliance Defending Freedom. American Family Association and Alliance Defending Freedom are both certified hate groups. Oh, and no one is facing jail time. The tragic persecution of Christians is further explained:

Two artists from Arizona are headed to court today in ongoing an effort to defend their First Amendment rights and to literally stay out of jail in the future.

Under threat of up to six months jail time, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of the Brush & Nib Studio in Phoenix, are seeking to stop a sweeping city ordinance that would force them to create custom artwork that violates their beliefs.

Duka and Koski want to ensure that no gay couple ever asks them to provide wedding invitations. At this point no one ever will. American jurisprudence require litigants to have standing which means that they must sustain an actual injury. This is a pre-enforcement challenge which defies that principle. I have written about these two women before. They have been at this for about two years now.

Honestly, I have yet to figure out how making an invitation for the wedding of a gay couple violates someone’s religious beliefs. Of course, that’s coming from someone who would sell goods and services to Westboro Baptist Church. I might thank them for the intended donation to GLSEN but I would take their money. You would think that we were forcing Duka and Koski to marry each other. It’s just a goddamned invitation.

The calligraphy shop owners make art for special events and various occasions, including weddings, says attorney Jonathan Scruggs of Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the Brush & Nib artists.

“Phoenix passed a law,” he continues, “that basically says, Hey, because this art studio will make a sign endorsing or celebrating the wedding of an opposite-sex marriage, it also has to make a sign, write out words, celebrating a same-sex marriage. And so that’s really the core issue of this case: Is that constitutional?”

There’s that celebrating bullshit again. Making invitations neither endorses nor celebrates anything. It is the exchange of goods and services for money. Nothing more. At this time there is the presumption that it is constitutional. The last action of the Supreme Court was to decline to hear the wedding photographer’s case in 2014, Elane Photography v. Willock. We will have to see what happens with Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado which begs the question: Why is ADF doing this now?

There is the possibility that, in late June, the Supreme Court will rule in favor of ADF’s client. Contrary to a number of other people I am cautiously optimistic but that is not based on anything tangible. No one can really read the tea leaves. Kennedy’s irritation — I think — was more with the state’s language regarding religion than the state’s case. I hope I am right. Experienced Court watchers say I am wrong. But I digress.

The reason that Scruggs is stressing art is to challenge the law based on compelled speech which is essentially what they did with Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado. If the Supreme Court punts on Masterpiece and remands it back to the trial court I suspect that they might ask the lower court to determine if cakes are art. Religious freedom is a more difficult case because of precedence. In 1878 the Court ruled that the state can regulate conduct as long as it is not regulating belief (Reynolds v. U.S.).

I always question the apparent hypocrisy of these cases. Are they making sure that none of their customers is on a second marriage for example? Would they make a Bar-Mitzvah invitation? After all, we are all going to Hell for not accepting Jesus Christ as lord and savior.

A local newspaper pointed out at the time that Brush and Nib had yet to be sued for discrimination but the same story quoted a homosexual-rights activist who likened the Brush and Nib artists to Jim Crow racists and claimed ADF was “promoting an anti-gay agenda.”

That same activist, an attorney, helped write the Phoenix ordinance, the story reported.

The issue about free speech is not just for two Christian artists, says the ADF attorney, but for everyone who has a viewpoint. He gives the example of a homosexual web site designer forced to create a web site that criticizes same-sex marriage.

Just for context, from that local newspaper:

Brendan Mahoney, an LGBT advocate and attorney who helped write the city’s law, likened the situation to white supremacists who argued they had religious objections to desegregation. He said the case is about everyone’s right to access a public accommodation, not about Duka and Koski’s ability to create art.

“Fifty years ago, people argued that their religious beliefs protected them and allowed them to refuse to serve blacks at white-only lunch counters,” Mahoney said. “The only difference today is now we’re talking about gay people.”

Scruggs is suggesting that an LGBT advocate should be disqualified from helping to write the nondiscrimination ordinance. Otherwise, why mention it? I would think that he has the ideal qualifications.

Scruggs can spare the concern for the gay web designer. I am not sure whether or not critics of marriage equality are a protected class. I am pretty sure, however, that they would not want to patronize a gay person’s business. They are funny that way.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.