BLOGThe Weekly Digest: 3-15-17

By James Arnold Posted on: | March 15, 2017
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On to the news.

 

Phoenix Ordinance Punishes Artistic Freedom with Threat of Jail Time

 

Let's play a game. I'll give you a quote, you try to determine who said it.

Ready?

"The answer is simple, and timeless: a free society is based on the principle that each and every individual has the right to decide what art or entertainment he or she wants—or does not want—to receive or create. Once you allow the government to censor someone else, you cede to it the power to censor you, or something you like. Censorship is like poison gas: a powerful weapon that can harm you when the wind shifts. Freedom of expression for ourselves requires freedom of expression for others. It is at the very heart of our democracy."

If you think it was one of the Founding Fathers, not quite. If you guessed an attorney at Alliance Defending Freedom, no…though one said that he "couldn't agree more" with the statement. The correct answer is more surprising.

In fact, the quote comes from the American Civil Liberties Union. The idea in that paragraph is spot on.

Unfortunately, the ACLU doesn't live up to their own statement.

You see, in the case of Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix, the ACLU has asked to file a friend-of-the-court-brief in opposition to the artistic freedom of two artists.

Here's the background on the case:

"A Phoenix art studio that specializes in hand-painting, hand-lettering, and calligraphy for weddings and other events is challenging a city ordinance that forces the studio’s two young female owners to use their artistic talents to promote same-sex ceremonies. The ordinance also forbids them from publicly expressing the Christian beliefs that prevent them from doing so and that require them to create art celebrating only marriages between one man and one woman."

Back to the ACLU: What about these young artists disqualifies them from "each and every individual" that "has the right to decide what art or entertainment he or she wants—or does not want—to receive or create"?

That the ACLU would ask to file a brief against the artists is plainly hypocritical. Here's how ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco reacted to the ACLU's good statement above and their bad position against Brush & Nib:

"We couldn’t agree more with the ACLU’s statement on this, but we couldn’t disagree more with the completely contradictory position they are taking with regard to Joanna and Breanna. It seems the ACLU prefers to be selective in who it thinks ought to be free and who ought to be punished for their views. Phoenix officials are playing favorites, too, and we are asking the appeals court to ensure that they respect our clients’ artistic freedom and freedom of speech for the duration of this lawsuit. It’s our hope that the city will respect it permanently for all artists, regardless of the political or religious views that they hold."

Here's hoping the court will agree with the ACLU's online statement on artistic freedom and not the position they have chosen to take against artists in Phoenix.

 
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James Arnold

Legal Content Manager

James Arnold manages and edits the Alliance Alert, a daily repository of news in all forms—written, spoken, or in video format.

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