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The Arizona Supreme Court Has the Opportunity to Protect These Christian Artists from Their City Government

The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in June against two studio artists who sued the city of Phoenix to block enforcement of an ordinance that would violate their religious beliefs.

Christians Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski don’t want to use their artistic talents to make materials for homosexual “weddings.” But the court ruled that the ordinance doesn’t violate their First Amendment rights. If they decline to provide services for what amounts to a mockery of marriage as well as celebrating sinful behavior, they could face fines and/or jail time.

If they don’t submit to the government and promote a message they oppose, they stand to lose their livelihood and their freedom. From Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF):

Phoenix interprets its ordinance in a way that forces the two artists to use their artistic talents to celebrate and promote same-sex marriage in violation of their beliefs. It also bans them from publicly communicating what custom artwork they can and cannot create consistent with their faith. The law threatens up to six months in jail, $2,500 in fines, and three years of probation for each day that there is a violation.

In the case, a pre-enforcement challenge to Phoenix City Code Section 18-4(B), ADF attorneys argue that the ordinance violates the Arizona Constitution and Arizona’s Free Exercise of Religion Act. Phoenix officials have interpreted the ordinance to force artists, like Duka and Koski, to create objectionable art, even when they decide what art they can create based on the art’s message, not the requester’s personal characteristics.

These Christians had to take their case to the state’s highest court after the appeals court ruling, and the court has agreed to hear their arguments. ADF reported that Duka and Koski have the support of state lawmakers, a publisher, and religious groups.

As the brief filed by state legislators points out, “Given the happy variety of Arizonans’ backgrounds in our state melting pot, the question posed in this case could take the following forms out [of] a myriad: May Arizona’s government require a fine art painter with a public portraiture business and who is a self-avowed feminist to create a portrait that features the denigration of women? May Arizona’s government force a Muslim cartoonist who openly commissions his work to the public to accept a request to create a cartoon image of the Quran’s desecration? Perhaps Arizona’s government may require a Jewish sculptor for hire to create a work denigrating the Torah? … This is no parade of horribles, no hyperbole; they are permissible consequences of affirming the [Court of Appeals].”

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