Christian print shop wins discrimination case

Religious Liberty | Kentucky judge rules Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals isn’t guilty of discrimination for refusing to print gay pride T-shirts
by Jamie Dean
Posted 4/27/15, 01:53 pm

A Kentucky court has ruled Lexington printer Blaine Adamson has a constitutional right to decline to print messages that conflict with his Christian beliefs, and that he isn’t guilty of discrimination for refusing to print pro-gay T-shirts in 2012.

“It is their constitutional right to hold dearly and to not be compelled to be part of an advocacy message opposed to their sincerely held Christian beliefs,” Judge James Ishmael wrote in a decision released Monday.

Late last year, a Lexington human rights commission found Adamson guilty of discrimination after the owner of Hands On Originals refused to print T-shirts for Lexington’s gay pride festival.

Adamson told a member of the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) he couldn’t print the shirts because of his Christian faith, but he offered to refer him to another local printer who would offer the same price. (Adamson had declined in the past other orders he found offensive.)

When the GLSO filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban Human Rights Commission, local demonstrators protested Adamson’s business, and the company lost three of its biggest customers, including the University of Kentucky.

In addition to finding him guilty of discrimination, commissioners ordered Adamson to stop discriminating and undergo diversity training.

A Kentucky court disagreed. In a 17-page ruling, Ishmael said Adamson’s website made his Christian convictions clear, and that he refused the gay pride order because of the message, not because of the customer’s sexual orientation.

The court’s ruling said the First Amendment protects Adamson from compulsion to participate in a gay advocacy message that conflicts with his religious beliefs. The judge cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Wooley v. Maynard: “We begin with the proposition that the right of freedom of thought protected by the First Amendment against state action includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all.”

The Lexington human rights commission could appeal the judge’s decision, though the commissioners’ plans weren’t immediately clear.

Adamson’s case has national implications for the growing slate of other business owners facing fines and lawsuits over their unwillingness to participate in same-sex weddings. Christian cake bakers, florists, and photographers have argued their professions are forms of speech, and they shouldn’t be compelled to participate in same-sex weddings against their consciences.

But the case also shows Christians outside the wedding industry may also face significant challenges as legal demands for affirming homosexuality grow.

Adamson’s attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom said the judge’s ruling was an important acknowledgement that business owners have a right to exercise their religious beliefs at work.

“You’re not free if your beliefs are confined to your mind,” attorney Bryan Beuman said.

Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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