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Free speech protects printer from promoting gay pride fest, Ky. court rules

Banner us constitution credit kim davies via flickr cc by nc nd 20 cna

The United States Constitution. Credit: Kim Davies via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Lexington, Ky., May 16, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Backers of a print shop owner who declined to print gay pride T-shirts because of his religious beliefs praised a Kentucky court’s decision that his free speech rights protect him from a discrimination complaint.

“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 Jim Campbell, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom. “Today’s decision is a victory for printers and other creative professionals who serve all people but cannot promote all messages.”

The case concerned Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands On Originals, a small print shop in Lexington, Ky. “I want God to find joy in what we do and how we work, how we treat our employees, and the messages we print,” said Adamson. “So if someone walks in and says, ‘Hey, I want you to help promote something,’ I can’t promote something that I know goes against what pleases Him.” Adamson has declined to create T-shirts that promote strip clubs, violence, and sexually explicit videos. He has served other clients regardless of sexual orientation.

In 2012 the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization asked him to print shirts for the local gay pride festival. He said he could not support the event and referred the organization to other printers. The group filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban Country Human Rights Commission. The commission ruled that Blaine had violated a local anti-discrimination ordinance and ordered him to attend diversity training. Blaine’s legal challenge to the commission won a favorable decision in Fayette Circuit Court, a ruling which was upheld by the Kentucky Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision May 12.

“The right of free speech does not guarantee to any person the right to use someone else’s property,” said appellate court’s Chief Judge Joy Kramer, UPI reports. The judge said the shop offers the service of promoting messages but its decision not to promote certain conduct was “pure speech.” Judge Jeff Taylor, writing in a dissent, said the ruling would make the anti-discrimination ordinance meaningless.

Other backers of Blaine included the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “It doesn’t matter what the speech is – pro-gay, anti-gay, pro-immigration, anti-immigration – the government can’t force you to print it,” Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund, said May 12. “Free speech is most important on the most divisive issues,” he said. “That is the last place the government should ever be allowed to demand conformity.”

Some anti-discrimination laws have placed heavy fines on some businesses involved in weddings, including florists and cake bakers, if they declined to aid in same-sex ceremonies. Such laws have also shut down Catholic adoption agencies.

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