A Christian printer who was previously found guilty of discrimination for refusing to print T-shirts for a gay pride parade won big Monday after a court ruled that he can decline to print messages that run in opposition to his religious views.
The Fayette County Circuit Court’s ruling overturned a previous decision by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, finding that Blaine Adamson, owner of Lexington printing company Hands On Originals, was within his rights when he declined to make shirts for the Lexington Pride Parade, according to a release from Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal firm.
The court found that Adamson did not violate the law in citing his religious convictions as the reason for the refusal, and that his decision was based on his personal freedom not to be forced or coerced to print messages that contradict his views.
“The court rightly recognized that the law protects Blaine’s decision not to print shirts with messages that conflict with his beliefs, and that no sufficient reason exists for the government to coerce Blaine to act against his conscience in this way,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jim Campbell said in a statement.
He added, “In short, [Hands On Originals’] declination to print the shirts was based upon the message of [Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington] and the Pride Festival and not on the sexual orientation of its representatives or members.”
As TheBlaze previously reported, Adamson’s case began when he refused service to the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington and the organization subsequently filed a complaint against Hands on Originals in March 2012, alleging that he had discriminated based on sexual orientation.
But Adamson and his attorneys consistently argued that Hands on Originals is a Christian business and that the views presented on the T-shirts — which advertised a gay pride festival — violated his religious beliefs; these arguments were initially dismissed.
Greg Munson of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission announced last fall that Hands on Originals discriminated against the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington when it refused to print the shirts. A recommended ruling at the time called for Hands On Originals to take two specific actions.
“First is don’t discriminate against individuals because of gender identity or sexuality,” Campbell told TheBlaze at the time. “If someone else from [Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington] comes to you for the pride festival, you have to [print again in the future if asked].”
The second demand was that at least some staffers at Hands on Originals — a company with around 30 employees — would need to participate in diversity training within the next 12 months. Campbell did note that Hands On Originals has both employed and served gays and lesbians, but that when it comes to the messages presented on products, Adamson draws a line.
“Blaine’s position is that he can’t print something if it conflicts with religious convictions,” Campbell said. “Over the two years leading up to this case, Hands On Originals had denied at least 13 orders all for the reason [that] they didn’t want to print and convey the message they were being asked to convey.”
He said that one of these orders was actually from a Christian organization — a T-shirt that had a blood design on it; Adamson felt that it was too racy, so he declined it.
In arguing for Adamson’s rights, Alliance Defending Freedom has raised another related issue: if Christians like Adamson are forced to print shirts that violate their religious beliefs, this would also mean that gay and lesbian-owned businesses will be forced to print messages from groups that they, too, disagree with — something the firm believes violates the First Amendment.
“In America, we don’t force people to express messages that are contrary to their convictions,” Adamson‘s co-counsel Bryan Beauman of Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, PLLC said last year. “America should not be a place where people who identify as homosexual are forced to promote groups like the Westboro Baptists and where printers with sincere religious convictions are forced to promote the message of the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization.”
This is the very issue that was also raised last year by Kathy Trautvetter and Diane DiGeloromo, a lesbian couple who own and operate BMP T-shirts, a New Jersey-based printing company.
Trautvetter told TheBlaze that she and DiGeloromo — who spoke with TheBlaze.com and appeared onThe Glenn Beck Program — launched their part-time business back in 2003 when they began doing graphic design and visual arts work for gay pride events.
Despite disagreeing on the finer details surrounding homosexuality, they support Adamson’s right to defend his Christian views and his business.
“The idea is that when you own your own business, it’s your own art and creation — it’s very personal … it takes a long time to build a business,” Trautvetter said. “When someone wants to force you to go against it — that’s what stuck me right in the heart. I really felt for Blaine.”
Read more about the case here.