Free to Believe

Breanna Koski and Joanna Duka

Brush & Nib Studio: Phoenix, Arizona 

In 2015, Breanna Koski and Joanna Duka started their own art studio in Phoenix that specializes in hand-painted lettering and calligraphy for weddings and other events. The two met at a Bible study and discovered their shared love of beauty, which led the artistic duo to open Brush & Nib. Soon thereafter, Koski and Duka became aware of a city ordinance that not only requires them to create artwork for same-sex marriages if requested by a customer, but also bars them from verbally expressing their religious beliefs pertaining to marriage.

The ordinance gives business owners who want to follow their Christian conscience by not participating in a same-sex marriage an impossible choice: either violate their conscience and contribute their services, or spend six months in jail and be fined $2,500 for every day that they do not comply with the ordinance.

Instead of waiting to be ensnared by a potential lawsuit as a result of the ordinance, Koski and Duka decided that they needed to take preemptive legal action to defend their religious liberty rights and to protect their freedom of artistic expression. In May 2016, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a pre-enforcement challenge on the women’s behalf against the Phoenix ordinance. In it, ADF states that the law “strips artists of their freedom to choose what to create and what to say in the marriage context.”

ADF’s legal counsel Jonathan Scruggs summed up the crux of the issue in a statement: “Artists don’t surrender their freedom of speech and freedom from coercion when they choose to make a living with their art. Government can’t censor artists or demand that they create art that violates their deepest convictions.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom