Two Christian artists who create hand-painted invitations and cards could be facing jail time and heavy penalties for refusing to make invitations for same-sex weddings.
Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of art design studio Brush & Nib, challenged an ordinance in Phoenix, Arizona that prohibits them from refusing clients for same-sex weddings. Under the same ordinance, they are also not allowed to discuss their convictions or the reason for not accepting clients for same-sex weddings.
If they should violate these laws, they would be imprisoned for six months for every day they fail to comply. They would also be fined $2,500, according to Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Kristen Waggoner, who appeared on Fox’s ‘The Kelly File’ last week to talk about the case.
Duka and Koski filed a lawsuit against Phoenix for violating their rights to create art according to their religious beliefs and for preventing them from talking to others about their art and religious beliefs.
On September, a trial court judge refused to suspend the ordinance against them, saying “the purpose of a wedding invitation is simply to convey the details of the date, time, and place of the wedding and to identify the persons getting married.”
Waggoner said that the government should not force Duka and Koski and other artists to create something that is not consistent with their convictions under threat of jail time.
“This case involves artistic expression. The issue here is whether the government can force artists to create art in violation of their convictions,” Waggoner explained. “And this ordinance imposes jail time potentially on artists, as well as fines — six months for every day that Joana and Brianna are not in compliance. We don’t force artists to create artistic expression under threat of jail time.”
Waggoner also said the ordinance prohibits Duka and Koski from talking about their views about marriage, which is why she was the one who appeared on the show instead of them.
“If they in any way, directly or indirectly, suggest that they may have beliefs that are based on marriage between one man and one woman, they can face the six months in jail for every single day they’re incompliant. It’s an extreme penalty,” she said.
However, in a voice recording played on the program, Phoenix Vice Mayor Kate Gallego said the city is determined to protect the ordinance for economic reasons.
“You’ve seen companies such as PayPal leave communities that don’t stand up for all of their residents. Major events like The Final Four will not come to communities that discriminate. So this ordinance is an important economic development tool and we will protect it,” Gallego said.
Duka and Koski are now appealing the case.