Facing Threat Of Jail Time, Faithful Phoenix Artists Appeal To Court

Under threat of up to six months jail time, two Phoenix artists, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, will be in court Monday seeking to stop a sweeping city ordinance from forcing them to design and create custom artwork expressing messages that violate their core beliefs.

The civil liberties lawsuit challenges the Phoenix ordinance because it illegally controls artistic expression—violating the freedom of Duka and Koski to choose which messages they will convey and refrain from conveying.

“All Americans should be free to live and work according to their deeply held beliefs without fear of imprisonment and other penalties,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs, who will argue before the court Monday. “The government must allow artists to make their own decisions about which messages they will promote. Breanna and Joanna are happy to design custom art for all people; they simply object to being forced to pour their heart, soul, imagination, and talent into creating messages that violate their conscience.”

In 2017, a lower court ruled that Phoenix can use a criminal law to force Duka and Koski to create messages that violate their deeply held beliefs and to ban them from explaining how their religious beliefs affect the artwork they can create. The argument on Monday relates to an appeal of that ruling.

Duka and Koski specialize in creating custom artwork using hand painting, hand lettering, and calligraphy to celebrate weddings and other events. The women’s religious convictions guide them in determining which messages they can and cannot promote through their custom artwork.

The city’s ordinance forces the two artists to use their artistic talents to celebrate and promote same-sex marriage in violation of their beliefs. It also bans them from publicly communicating how their Christian belief that God designed marriage as a union between one man and one woman affects the custom artwork they can create. The law threatens up to six months in jail, $2,500 in fines, and three years of probation for each day that there is a violation.

In the pre-enforcement challenge to Phoenix City Code Section 18-4(B), a public accommodation law, ADF attorneys argue that the ordinance violates the Arizona Constitution and Arizona’s Free Exercise of Religion Act. Phoenix officials have interpreted the ordinance to force artists, like Duka and Koski, to create objectionable art, even though they decide what art they can create based on the art’s message, not the requester’s personal characteristics.

ADF attorneys also represent cake artist Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop in another artistic freedom case, which is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The court heard oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission on Dec. 5.

12 Comments

  1. Jack Phillips (CO), Elaine & Jonathan Huguenin (NM), Aaron & Melissa Klein (OR), Robert & Cynthia Gifford (NY State), Randy & Trish McGath (Indianapolis), Crystal Dixon (U of Toledo, OH), BAronelle Stutzman (Richland, WA), Richard & Betty Odgaard (Des Moines, IA)Keven O’Connor (Walkerton, IN). Since SCOTUS legalized same sex marriage under Obama, Christian-owned businesses have been fined, closed, Christians have been fired and unable to keep or get jobs. It is common practice to ask during job interviews a potential employee’s views on same sex relations. If one is against it due to religious views, one doesn’t get hired. Such persecution is not being done in a corner. In this country which has thrived on free enterprise in which consumers have many choices of where they can acquire goods and services, the gay rights movement has the objective to force Christians to accept and embrace their lifestyle or be fired, fined, or put out of business. Christian churches have embraced the same sex lifestyle in order to attract or keep congregants. It will only get worse. The End Times are here. Revelation 13:7, 2 Timothy 3:12, Matthew 24:7-10, John 15:20.

  2. If what Phoenix enforces is true, then my God inspired art must be displayed in any art gallery. They must say yes to my showing what I have created. No one can refuse my desire to have my art displayed which is God inspired, in their gallery.
    I hear from people that my art is very good,although I have not attempted to display my art work. It would almost be interesting to test their law.

  3. Freedom begins when you tell Mrs. Grundy to go take a hike.Robert A. Heinlein “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long”

    So – SUCK IT up butter butt; No crying in Jungle Rules

    • Heinlein also wrote “ If you live in a society where you can vote then do so. There may not be anything on the ballot you are for but there is always something on it that you are against.”

      These laws are what you get when only 20% of the registered voters get out there and vote. Democrats who impose their wills on us and attack us for our faith.

  4. What do you expect from East LA? Guess we really need to start the trench around the county up there and hope for a quake to break it off, take SF also. What is even sadder is flagstaff is almost as bad, so it would seem the whole western portion of the state is at stake.

  5. Totalitarianism at it’s finest. It’s the liberal way. You vill do vat ve vunt you to do or you vill get on ze train, Comrade.

  6. who the hell in Phoenix is causing this to happen ? The city? Really… this is all they have to do? I can only hope the backlash is so severe they don’t know what to do with themselves for such a use of public funds. There’s “lots of artists” available, they have to have these two, no exceptions, or jail? Purely anti-christian attack… and they’ll be empowered, more will come. Maranatha!

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