An ordinance in Arizona has stifled the religious freedom of two Christian women who operate an art business.
Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski are both passionate for Jesus and for art. They met at a Bible study in January 2015 and agreed to set up a business where they could both use their skills. This gave birth to Brush & Nib, an upscale enterprise focused on creating artwork for weddings.
It would have been the perfect business for Duka and Koski, except for one thing: Phoenix has a standing ordinance that requires the company to accept clients for same-sex weddings, which is against their conviction. As Christians, they believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Furthermore, the city also prohibited them from “explaining to customers and the public why they could only create art consistent with their beliefs about marriage.”
Thus, Duka and Koski had been hit by what is called a two-fer, a violation of two rights at the same time — their religious freedom and their freedom of speech.
Should they refuse to comply with the ordinance, they would be fined $2,500 for each day of operation, and they could be jailed for six months.
The two women considered their options. They refused to close their business, but they could not afford paying $2,500 per day on penalties and risk going to jail. However, they also could not compromise their religious beliefs.
“They could not accept sitting down in their studio and hand-drawing artwork that contradicted who they are and what they hold dear,” Alliance Defending Freedom said. “They could not condone lying to customers or wasting customers’ time – telling customers that Brush & Nib would create something it couldn’t. And they could not stomach staying silent about the very beliefs that inspire their art.”
Duka and Koski decided not to back down without a fight. They filed a lawsuit through Alliance Defending Freedom against Phoenix.
Under the Arizona Constitution and the Arizon Free Exercise of Religion Act, the two women’s rights are being violated “by compelling them to create art they object to and by stopping them from discussing their artistic and religious beliefs with others.”
According to the ADF, the ordinance removes from artists the freeom to choose what they can and cannot create. It also strips them of the freedom to say what they believe regarding marriage.
“Artists don’t surrender their freedom of speech and freedom from coercion when they choose to make a living with their art. Government can’t censor artists or demand that they create art that violates their deepest convictions,” Jonathan Scruggs from ADF, who represents the two women, said.
Duka and Koski filed a request for a preliminary injunction against the ordinance, but their request was rejected, and the judge dismissed their position as “absurd.” They are now waiting for the Arizona court’s decision regarding the case.