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Free Speech or Forced Speech? Christian T-Shirt Printer's LGBT Case Heads to KY Supreme Court

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Another big case of a Christian's free speech rights versus LGBT rights is back in the courts.

Two years ago, a Kentucky appeals court ruled in favor of Hands On Originals, a printing company which refused to print gay pride t-shirts because it goes against the owner's religious beliefs. However, because the county human rights commission appealed the case, owner Blaine Adamson has to go back to court again. This time, his continuing battle over his First Amendment rights will be heard in the Kentucky Supreme Court on Friday. 

Back in 2012, Adamson refused to print a t-shirt design for the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO), which promoted the group's pride festival. 

As CBN News reported, Adamson explained that he could not print a shirt bearing a message that conflicts with his faith. He then offered to connect the GLSO to another printer who would create the shirts for the same price that he would have charged. 

The GLSO rejected Adamson's offer and filed a discrimination complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission. The commission declared Adamson was guilty of illegal discrimination and ordered him to print shirts with messages that conflicted with his religious beliefs.

In May of 2017, the Kentucky Court of Appeals rescinded the commission's findings, ruling that Adamson is free to decline orders that would require him to print messages that conflict with his religious beliefs.

Then the human rights commission appealed the decision to the Kentucky Supreme Court. 

As CBN News reported last year, two lesbian business owners also sided with the Christian printer.

Kathy Trautvertter and Diane DiGeloromo of BMP T-shirts once told talk show host Glenn Beck they had to get involved because "when I put myself in his shoes I could see it from his side."

The LGBT printers realized they could not go against their own social mores and if asked, they "could not create or print anti-gay t-shirts for a group."

DiGeloromo said they know that siding with the printer may cause some concern in the LGBT community but "we feel it's not a gay or straight issue, it's a human issue and no one should be forced to do something against what they believe in."

Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, echoes those sentiments adding, "A ruling protecting the freedom to disagree respects the dignity of both sides. The two sides may never agree, but they will be free to live according to their deeply held beliefs."

Jim Campbell, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom representing Adamson, says the Kentucky Supreme Court should follow the findings of two lower courts that say Adamson should not be made to print something that goes against his beliefs.

"Americans should always have the freedom to decline when asked to express ideas that violate their conscience," Campbell said. "Blaine Adamson serves all people, but he cannot print all messages. The First Amendment protects his right to do that."

The ADF has also used social media to promote Adamson's case. In a tweet posted on Wednesday, the religious rights law firm wrote:

"It is not #FreeSpeech if the government is forcing Blaine to print messages he disagrees with."

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of