A number of court rulings over the past few years have found that a “gay” activist’s right to have his or her lifestyle affirmed and promoted trumps the U.S. Constitution’s protections for religious liberty.
That’s essentially what a narrow majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, including two justices who had publicly advocated for same-sex “marriage,” found in the Obergefell decision.
But now a court in Kentucky has found that Christians who operate businesses do have the right to refuse to promote homosexuality or transgenderism.
The dispute developed when the owner of a T-shirt company, Hands On Originals, declined to produce T-shirts promoting a homosexual festival because the message conflicted with his personal faith.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission ruled owner Blaine Adamson “must print messages that conflict with his faith when customers ask him to do so.”
But that decision was reversed by the Fayette Circuit Court, and now the Kentucky Court of Appeals has upheld it.
While the decision affects only the T-shirt case, the simple logic utilized by the court could ripple across the country in other cases, such as in Colorado where state officials ordered a baker and his staff to undergo re-training for refusing to promote homosexuality.
The ruling says: “Nothing of record demonstrates HOO, through Adamson, refused any individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations it offered to everyone else because the individual in question had a specific sexual orientation or gender identity. Adamson testified he never learned of or asked about the sexual orientation or gender identity of Don Lowe, the only representative of GLSO with whom he spoke regarding the T-shirts.”
“Don Lowe testified he never told Adamson anything regarding his sexual orientation or gender identity. The GLSO itself also has no sexual orientation or gender identity: it is a gender-neutral organization that functinos as a support network and advocate for individudals who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered,” the court found.
“Also, nothing of record demonstrates HOO, through Adamson, refused any individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations it offered to everyone else because the individual in question was engaging in an activity or conduct exclusively or predominantly by a protected class of people.”
The ruling said, “The ‘service’ HOO offers is the promotion of messages. The ‘conduct’ HOO chose not to promote was pure speech. There is no contention that HOO is a public forum in addition to a public accommodation. Nothing in the fairness ordinance prohibits HOO, a private business, from engaging in viewpoint or message censorship.”
The ruling said the commission’s finding against the T-shirt company “would allow any individual to claim any variety of protected class discrimination under the guise of the fairness ordinance merely by requesting a T-shirt espousing support for a protected class and then receiving a value-based refusal.”
“A Buddhist who requested T-shirts from HOO stating, ‘I support equal treatment for Muslims,’ could complain of religious discrimination under the fairness ordinance if HOO opposed equal treatment for Muslims and refused to print the T-shirts on that basis.”
The case developed in 2014 when the commission ruled against Adamson, who was defended by the Alliance Defending Freedom.
“Americans should always have the freedom to believe, the freedom to express those beliefs, and the freedom to not express ideas that would violate their conscience,” said ADF senior counsel Jim Campbell, who argued before the appeals court in December.
“Today’s decision is a victory for printers and other creative professionals who serve all people but cannot promote all messages. It is also a victory for all Americans because it reassures us all that, no matter what you believe, the law can’t force you to express a message in conflict with your deepest convictions.”
Adamson, at the time of the request in 2012, had offered to find the customer another printer to do the shirts, and the “gay” organization eventually got them for free.
But the organization filed a complaint against Adamson anyway.
Chief Judge Joy A. Kramer wrote the majority opinion that Adamson did not unlawfully discriminate.
Judge Debra Hemgree Lambert wrote a concurrence, finding the company is protected under the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Statute.
“We commend the court’s ruling, which upholds the First Amendment’s promise that everyone, including businesses and their owners, can decide for themselves the ideas and beliefs that they choose to express,” said Bryan Beauman of Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney PLLC of Lexington.
Beauman, one of nearly 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, is co-counsel for Adamson and Hands on Originals.
See a video describing the issues in the case: