Kentucky commission orders Christian printer to make pro-gay T-shirts
by Sarah Padbury
Posted 10/16/14, 03:26 pm
The head of a Kentucky human rights commission ruled last week that a Christian printer’s refusal to print gay pride T-shirts “constitutes unlawful discrimination,” and ordered the company to attend “diversity training.” The order, which must be approved by the whole commission before it can be enforced, also requires the company to stop discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation.
In March 2012, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) in Lexington, Ky., filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, claiming discrimination after Hands On Originals, a local promotional company, refused to print T-shirts for its upcoming Pride Festival, an event that celebrates homosexual behavior and same-sex relationships.
Hands On Originals (HOO), which employs about 30 people, assists customers in promoting their organizations, events, and messages. The company’s Christian Outfitters division makes up 50 percent of its revenue, creating items for Christian organizations, churches, and camps.
The company’s managing owner, Blaine Adamson, responded to GLSO’s allegations by pointing to his faith. As a Christian, he cannot distinguish between conduct in his personal life and his actions as a business owner because he is responsible to God for his decisions in all areas of life, he said. Due to the promotional nature of the printing business, the company regularly declines printing materials it doesn’t want to endorse when the message conflicts with the owners’ religious and moral convictions. For example, the company has refused orders promoting strip clubs, containing lewd content, or using profanity. The refusal policy is noted on the company’s website.
But in November 2012, the human rights commission’s executive director, Raymond Sexton, concluded HOO violated a city ordinance because it “denied GLSO business based on their sexual orientation.” Sexton also declared GLSO was due compensation for its “economic loss, pain, embarrassment, and humiliation.”
In an official response to the charges, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the business stated HOO does not discriminate against customers or employees who are homosexual, and in fact has filled orders for homosexual customers. The company also has current employees who are homosexual.
“HOO did not decline GLSO’s request—nor has it ever declined an order—because of the prospective customer’s sexual orientation,” the response says. “Instead, like its many other message-based denials, HOO declined this order because its owners did not want to communicate the message of the requested shirt—that people should be ‘proud’ about engaging in homosexual behavior or same-sex relationships—nor did they want to promote the Pride Festival or the ideology conveyed at that advocacy event.”
On Oct. 6, Commissioner R. Greg Munson sided with the GLSO, ruling the city’s “Fairness ordinance” does not violate the company’s right to free speech, does not compel it to speak, or burden its free exercise of religion. Munson ordered the company to stop “discriminating” against individuals because of their sexual orientation or identity. He also ordered the company to participate in diversity training within the next 12 months.
In an op-ed on Fox News, Sexton suggested Christian business owners leave their religion at home: “Or, [as] in this case, you can find yourself two years down the road and you’re still involved in a legal battle because you did not do so.”
Sarah is a writer, editor, and adoption advocate. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Sarah and her husband live with their six teenagers in Castle Rock, Colo.