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Christian print shop wins discrimination case

Kentucky judge rules Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals isn’t guilty of discrimination for refusing to print gay pride T-shirts

Vimeo/Alliance Defending Freedom

Christian print shop wins discrimination case

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 is national editor of WORLD Magazine. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and previously worked for the Charlotte World. Jamie has covered politics, disasters, religion, and more for WORLD. She resides in Charlotte, N.C.



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D In Nc

@Web Editor: Thanks!  Wasn't aware that is how the articles worked. I wasn't logged in when I first saw the article yesterday and couldn't see all of it, so assumed that no one could unless they were logged in.  Guess my "cookies" made it look like I had used up my for 4 free articles.  Now I know!


Thank God and (keep) PRAY(ING).


I was also thinking about businesses in the murkier legal area of flowers, etc. - if ultimately "required" to provide services to SSM weddings ... what if those businesses consistently donated "a portion" of proceeds to the local church (presumably Biblical in thought) and a solid organization promoting Biblical marriage in a positive manner - and prominently post that just as other "corporate conscience" businesses do (We're getting a Tacos4Life and everyone who walks in knows 22 cents of their purchase goes to Honduras). Since the SC has made clear that donations are a form of speech these cannot be hindered. In the case of a forced SSM the policy could be to give 100% of the proceeds to the church/organization. I doubt many would want to financially support organizations that worked against them! Hans, do you listen to "The World and Everything in it" podcasts?  I've learned so much legally from them, especially Monday's legal docket. I find it does a great job of breaking down the legal issues in various matters on all sides.


Interesting. So in this case the actual legal issue becomes clear. It wouldn't be legal to refuse to sell a shirt that you make and sell to other people just because it's going to be in a gay pride event, but it is legal to refuse to make a shirt with a particular message on it that you don't wish to print or sell it to anyone.This helps readily distinguish the cases of the bakers who refuse to sell generic wedding cakes to gay customers for their weddings from the rather poorly conceived attempt of that Christian guy in Colorado who tried to score culture war points and failed by asking non-Christian bakers to write particular messages on their cakes which they deemed offensive. These situations are absolutely not the same legally, and I wish that World would do a better job helping Christians actually understand the legal issues in play here. It is complicated, but it would be better for all of us to promote crystal clear understanding instead of muddying the waters just so we can justify our incensed feelings.Finally, we should recognize in the subtext of all this the real issue. Whether or not Christians get legal defenses in place for their "religious liberty" is irrelevant, because the culture is taking such a hard turn in this direction that refusing to serve gay customers because you disagree with their message or events will get your business annihilated--not by the government, but by good old capitalist principles. People will refuse to support your business because they don't want to be associated with what they deem to be bigotry. This print shop lost their biggest customers, which is the real threat to businesses if you give it ten years.


If you identify your business as "Christian", you WILL be specifically targeted by the LGBTQURSTUV community. Be prepared.