Christian T-Shirt Printer Argues Case Before Kentucky Supreme Court

Blaine Adamson, owner of the promotional t-shirt business Hands on Originals based in Lexington, Kentucky, was back in court today with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyers arguing on his behalf before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

In 2012, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) asked Adamson to print shirts to promote the local pride festival. After learning the specific message that the GLSO desired, Adamson, a committed Christian, declined the request but offered to connect the festival organizers with another printer.

“People often ask me why I made that decision,” said Adamson. “Here is what I tell them: I will work with any person, no matter who they are, no matter what their belief systems are. But when they present a message that conflicts with my religious beliefs, that’s not something that I can print. That’s the line for me.”

The GLSO, despite receiving the shirts for free from another printer, filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission claiming that Hands On Originals had violated a public accommodation law and discriminated against the organization.

Additionally, the pride festival group sent a press release to the Lexington newspaper. LGBT groups soon called for a boycott of Hands On Originals, while Lexington’s mayor publicly criticized Adamson.

In 2014, the human rights commission ruled that Adamson must print all messages, even if they conflict with his deeply held religious beliefs. Adamson was also required to attend “diversity training.”

“I never thought living out my faith would be the cause of so much controversy,” said Adamson. “As I have gone through this process, I have often marveled that something like this can actually occur in America. This is not the way it should be.”

In May 2017, the Kentucky Court of Appeals rescinded the commission’s findings and ruled that Adamson is free to decline orders that go against his Christian convictions. Unsatisfied, the human rights commission appealed the decision to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

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

Although bombarded by threatening emails, phone calls and Facebook comments by adversaries, Adamson gained quite a few faithful supporters, including The Family Foundation. “Because of Blaine Adamson’s courage, Kentucky is privileged to address this critical constitutional issue of free speech and religious liberty,” said Kent Ostrander, executive director of the The Family Foundation.

A press conference was held in state’s capitol rotunda following today’s oral arguments. Kentucky Sen. Ralph Aldarado gave a brief statement in support of Adamson, saying, “Blaine’s freedom is worth fighting for, even if you don’t agree with his beliefs, because the freedom he’s standing for belongs to every person in Kentucky.”

Surrounded by supporters holding signs that read “#FreeSpeech” and “Speak Freely,” when asked, “Has this all been worth it?” Adamson responded: “It’s not really a question of is it worth it, it’s that I had to stand. At the end of the day, I’m accountable to God for what I print on my press. And that really is what matters—not whether we win or lose. What matters is that I honored God in the way I lived and worked.”

Photo: Alliance Defending Freedom