Over the years, we’ve grown accustomed to religious business owners being bullied by the government. It seems like a common occurrence now for a Christian bakery to be compelled by the court system to bake cakes for same-sex weddings. If it’s not the courts, liberal activists are publicly shaming Christians into submission all over the country.Of course, religious business owners are only practicing their rights to freedom of association. When business conflicts with deeply held religious beliefs, it ought to be the right of that business owner to decline their services. Sadly, the government has been denying them that fundamental right for quite some time now.
When Hands on Originals, a Kentucky based T-shirt company declined to make T-shirts for a gay pride festival, it seemed like history was about to repeat itself. Immediately following the decision, the Lexington City Human Rights Commission ruled that the company was in violation of a city ordinance against discrimination. But when the company appealed the decision in court, they received a surprising result.From The Blaze:
The fight to protect the First Amendment right to freely exercise religion without government coercion was just awarded a huge victory in Kentucky.
In 2012, the Lexington City Human Rights Commission ruled that a local T-shirt printing company, Hands On Originals, violated the city’s fairness ordinance by discriminating against same-sex people when the business refused to print shirts for the 2012 Lexington Pride Festival ordered by Lexington’s Gay and Lesbian Services Organization, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.Blaine Adamson, the business owner, told the Human Rights Commission in 2014 that printing the T-shirts and spreading same-sex values would violate his Christian beliefs.
However, the courts had a different view:
Despite Adamson’s plea that forcing him to print the T-shirts would violate his First Amendment rights, the Human Rights Council ruled against him. Adamson appealed the decision to a Kentucky state circuit court, which ruled in his favor in 2015.Unsurprisingly, the saga didn’t end there. The Human Rights Commission appealed the circuit court ruling, but the decision was upheld:
On Friday, the Kentucky state court of appeals upheld the lower court’s decision after the Human Rights Council appealed the original court decision.
In a 2-to-1 ruling, the judges said it’s clear that Hands on Originals didn’t violate Lexington’s fairness ordinance because they didn’t refuse the group service based on the customers’ sexual orientation but because the business owners believed they shouldn’t be compelled to spread a message that violates their deeply held religious beliefs.Chief Judge Joy Kramer wrote, “The right of free speech does not guarantee to any person the right to use someone else’s property.”
The Human Rights Commission has yet to decide whether they will appeal the upheld ruling. However, having now been defeated twice in court is a new development in an otherwise concerning trend. Up until this most recent ruling, courts have been more likely to come down against religious freedom.
For now, Hands on Originals has scored a major victory for business owners hoping to protect their religious freedom. Hopefully, this is just the start of a reversal of trend that has put some Christians out of business for good.
[Note: This post was authored by Michael Lee. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee]