Baker v. Hands On Originals
For years, print shop owner Blaine Adamson has declined to print messages that contradict his core religious beliefs—a standard industry practice. So when the Gay and Lesbian Services Organizations (GLSO) asked Blaine to create t-shirts promoting the 2012 Pride Festival, he had to say no. Blaine tried to help GLSO find other printers who would match his price—and they eventually received the t-shirts for free. But GLSO filed a complaint with the local human rights commission, which ordered Blaine to print the shirts and attend “diversity training” to change his views. The Kentucky Supreme Court made the final ruling in the case, protecting Adamson's free speech and right to live by his conscience.
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A Christian printer ordered to violate his faith
Blaine Adamson owns Hands On Originals, a small screen printing shop in Kentucky that creates promotional materials like shirts, hats, blankets, and mugs. Blaine serves everyone regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. But he doesn’t print messages that are contrary to his faith, such as messages promoting violence. As printers across the country have agreed, it is standard industry practice for printers to decline messages that contradict their core beliefs. Blaine has operated this way for years without a problem.
Until 2012, when the Gay and Lesbian Services Organizations (GLSO) asked Blaine to create t-shirts promoting the local Pride Festival. Because the message of the t-shirts conflicted with Blaine’s religious beliefs, he offered to connect GLSO with other printers who would match his price. GLSO received numerous offers to print the t-shirts and ultimately received them for free. But GLSO filed a complaint with the local human rights commission, which ordered Blaine to print the shirts and attend “diversity training” to change his views.
Support from the LGBT community
Two different Kentucky courts have ruled that this sort of coercion is illegal. Blaine has also received strong support from the printing industry and LGBT business owners.
“This isn’t a gay or straight issue. This is a human issue. No one really should be forced to do something against what they believe in. It’s as simple as that,” said Kathy Trautvertter & Diane DiGeloromo of BMP T-shirts.
Becket defends Blaine’s free speech
The human rights commission has now appealed the case to the Kentucky Supreme Court. In February 2018, Becket and University of Virginia Law Professor Doug Laycock, together with Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLCS, filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Blaine. The brief argues: “Just as a pro-choice printer has a right to decline to print a religious message attacking Planned Parenthood, and a gay photographer has a right to decline to photograph a religious anti-gay rally, a Christian printer who believes in traditional marriage has a right to decline to print materials contradicting that view. The law protects the freedom of individuals in a pluralistic society to disagree.”
On October 31, 2019, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hands On Originals, further protecting free speech and our pluralistic society.
Importance to religious liberty
- Individual freedom: Religious freedom protects the rights of individuals to observe their faith at all times, including in the workplace. In this case, the government is forcing Blaine Adamson to choose between his deeply held religious convictions and his livelihood.
- Free speech: The First Amendment protects our right to speak freely on issues without fear of government censorship or punishment, even when, and especially when, that view is unpopular. In this case, Blaine’s artistic expressions are a form of speech, and the government should not force him to create something that violates his religious beliefs.