Free to Believe

Blaine Adamson

Hands On Originals: Lexington, Kentucky

On March 26, 2012, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) of Lexington, Kentucky filed a complaint against the Lexington-based printing company, Hands On Originals. The GLSO requested that Hands On Originals print t-shirts for the Lexington Pride Festival. However, owner Blaine Adamson declined, saying Hands On was a Christian company, and as such, it was their “prerogative to refuse any order that would endorse positions that conflict with the convictions of the ownership.”  Adamson offered to put the GLSO in touch with another printer that would honor the same price quote and produce the shirts. The GLSO had no difficulty obtaining its desired goods and services from another vendor who produced the shirts free of charge. Unsatisfied, the GLSO filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission.

In October 2014, after 24 months of back-and-forth, Lexington’s Human Rights Commission issued its ruling, finding the business guilty of breaking the town’s “fairness” ordinance and ordered reeducation known as “diversity training” as punishment. The Commission’s Executive Director, Raymond Sexton, indicated that it’s time for Christians in the marketplace “to leave their religion at home.”  Otherwise, he warned, “you can find yourself two years down the road and you’re still involved in a legal battle because you did not do so.” In an interview with Fox News’s Todd Starnes, Sexton tried to hedge, “We’re not telling someone how to feel with respect to religion, but the law is pretty clear that if you operate a business to the public, you need to provide your services to people regardless…”

Adamson, the devout believer who runs Hands On Originals, was stunned.  After all, there was no malice in the family’s decision—who politely declined to print t-shirts with a rainbow message that contradicted their faith. 

On April 27, 2015, the Fayette Circuit Court reversed the commission’s decision. “The government can’t force citizens to surrender free-speech rights or religious freedom in order to run a small business, and this decision affirms that,” noted Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jim Campbell, who argued before the court in Hands On Originals v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission. “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.”

Adamson has done business with and even employed people who identify as homosexual, indicating that his decision to decline GLSO’s request was based on constitutionally protected freedoms of speech. “In short, HOO’s declination to print the shirts was based upon the message of GLSO and the Pride Festival and not on the sexual orientation of its representatives or members,” the court wrote in its decision. “In point of fact, there is nothing in the record before the Commission that the sexual orientation of any individual that had contact with HOO was ever divulged or played any part in this case.”

“What makes America unique is our freedom to peacefully live out our beliefs. The Constitution protects that freedom,” added co-counsel Bryan Beauman with Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, PLLC, of Lexington. “You’re not free if your beliefs are confined to your mind.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom

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