Arizona Supreme Court Expected To Rule In Phoenix Artistic Freedom, Religious Liberty Case

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PHOENIX — The highly anticipated ruling on religious liberty by the Arizona Supreme Court is expected on Monday in the case of a Phoenix art studio, Brush and Nib. The case involves a challenge of a City of Phoenix ordinance that forces the studio’s two owners to use their artistic talents to promote same-sex ceremonies.

Brush & Nib Studio owners Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski specialize in creating custom artwork using hand painting, hand lettering, and calligraphy to celebrate weddings and other events.

Phoenix interprets its ordinance, City Code Section 18-4(B), in a way that forces artists, like Duka and Koski, to use their artistic talents to celebrate and promote same-sex marriage in violation of their beliefs, even when they decide what art they create based on the art’s message, not the requester’s personal characteristics.

The ordinance also forbids Duka and Koski from publicly communicating what custom artwork they can and cannot create consistent with their faith. 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.

Specifically, the City of Phoenix ordinance forbids advertisements or other notices that say business from certain groups or people “would be unwelcome, objectionable, unacceptable, undesirable or not solicited.”

The artists and their attorney argue in their civil liberties lawsuit, that Phoenix interprets its law in a way that illegally controls artistic expression and disregards religious liberty thereby violating the freedom of Duka and Koski to choose which messages they will convey and refrain from conveying consistent with their beliefs.

According to the artists, their religious convictions guide them in determining which messages they can and cannot promote through their custom artwork.