Kentucky appeals court asked to uphold ruling favouring Christian t-shirt printer in row with gay group

Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands-on Original, refuses to print gay messages on t-shirts, saying this will go against his Christian faith.(YouTube/ADF)

The fight for freedoms of religion and speech is now at the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which will decide whether a Christian t-shirt printer has the right to refuse to print messages of a gay organisation that contradicted his religious beliefs.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has asked the appeals court to uphold a lower court's ruling that favoured Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands-on Original, over a case filed by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GSLO) of Lexington after he refused to print t-shirts bearing the message "Lexington Pride Festival 5" in 2012, saying this violated his Christian faith.

In 2012, GSLO filed a discrimination case against Hands-on Original before the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, which ruled in 2014 that the company must print the t-shirts.

The ADF filed an appeal with the Fayette Circuit Court, which ruled in favour of Adamson in April last year and reversed the decision of the commission.

The commission appealed the ruling to the Court of Appeals and the ADF has filed a brief urging the court to uphold the court's decision.

"Protecting Blaine's freedom affirms everyone's freedom, no matter the nature of their beliefs or convictions," said ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell in a statement. "The government shouldn't be able to force citizens to create speech that conflicts with their deepest convictions, and the trial court's decision rightly affirmed that."

In declining the t-shirt orders of GSLO, Adamson said he wasn't even aware of the sexual lifestyle of the persons making the request, WND reported.

According to the ADF, Adamson regularly declines print jobs when the message violates his faith. In fact, he has rejected a dozen orders in the past years. But he refers them to other printers.

In the brief, it said Adamson has "never declined to work with people because of their race, sex, sexual orientation or other legally protected characteristic. On the contrary, HOO works with everyone, including gay and lesbian customers ... and regularly hires gay and lesbian employees."

"The government ... cannot force it citizens to convey message that they deem objectionable or punish them for declining to convey such messages," it added. "The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that the government could not apply that law [in another case] to force that organization to convey unwanted messages."

It added, "That constitutional principle, at issue because Mr. Adamson declined to produce advocacy materials for the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO), protects all individuals, regardless of their beliefs."

The ADF said it is no surprise that a lesbian-owned and operated t-shirt company and groups that strongly support gay rights have publicly supported Adamson's company.

"For just as surely as the First Amendment protects HOO against the GLSO's discrimination claim, it also forecloses a religious-discrimination claim against an LGBT printer who refuses to create materials that disparage gays and lesbians. Thus, a ruling for HOO upholds the freedom of all who are asked to produce expression that they consider objectionable," the filing explains.

Co-counsel Bryan Beauman of Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, PLLC, of Lexington said, "The government has no good reason for overriding a person's freedom to peacefully live out his beliefs."

"Everyone who contacts Blaine gets the expressive materials they're looking for, because he will either create the expression for them or refer them to someone who will. It's intolerant to insist that Blaine's business must produce expression that violates his beliefs," he said.