Can you be forced to print material that goes against your conscience? If you have a print shop, can you refuse an atheist customer who wants you to print material that states that the Christian faith is a fairy tale? Or can you refuse to print Gay-Pride promotional material? Well, an ordinance in Lexington, Kentucky “ban[s] public accommodations discrimination based on sexual orientation.” This means that you must print it, even if it represents a denial of your faith!
The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) had wanted Blame Adamson, owner of Hands On Originals, to print T-shirts for their Gay-Pride event. According to GLSO’s complaint with the Lexington Human Rights Commission:
- When Blaine learned that it was a gay pride festival, he asked, “You know we’re a Christian organization, don’t you?” He then continued on to say that Hands On Originals would not print shirts related to a gay pride festival. He suggested that he could refer us to a different business who would print the shirts. Our committee member told them he would take that offer to the board, but that he felt that we would not want to do business with anyone who did business with Hands On Originals, based on their discrimination.
However, it seems that the Lexington, KY ordinance is unconstitutional. It is in violation of the “Free Exercise of Religion” clause:
- The Ordinance unconstitutionally compels speech, because it requires printers to print material that they do not want to print. Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed. (1977) and Keller v. State Bar (1990) reaffirmed that the government generally may not compel someone to give over money to a private or even quasi-public entity when that money will be used for political or ideological speech.
- Indeed, speech on T-shirts is as protected as speech in books. Under the GLSO’s view, a book publisher that is opposed to (say) Scientology could be required to print pro-Scientology books. Likewise, a printer that hates Nazi ideology could be required to print pro-Nazi leaflets in those jurisdictions.
Increasingly, Christians must defend their Constitutional 1st Amendment rights. It is not enough that the Constitution specifies certain rights. These must be upheld in court, and when we fail to do this, it can also mean a failure to faithfully follow our Lord in all regards:
- Then they [the Sanhedrin] called them [the Apostles] in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:18-20)
Sometimes, to obey State ordinances is to disobey God. To obey God may mean to disobey these ordinances, or at least to challenge them in court.