BLOG5 W’s Explaining the Brush & Nib Studio Case

By Sarah Kramer Posted on: | January 22, 2019

I wish I could introduce you to Joanna and Breanna.

They are two of the most passionate, loving, and faithful people you will ever meet. With a quiet strength and grace, they have endured unbelievable hate, threats, and vitriol these past few years.

Why? Because they are taking a stand for their right to live consistently with their religious beliefs – beliefs that the government and culture have labeled as unpopular and unwelcome.

Let’s take a look at the facts of their case and the hearts that fuel Brush & Nib Studio.

Who: Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski of Brush & Nib Studio

newbrushandnib-stmtimg-121018Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski co-own Brush & Nib Studio, an upscale hand-painting, hand-lettering, and calligraphy company. They create and sell custom artwork—paintings, prints, business logos, wedding invitations, and more—for clients and their special events. 

That wasn’t always the plan. In 2014, Joanna was laying the groundwork to open her own calligraphy business. But she felt a piece was missing. She knew she wanted to incorporate painting, but her own experiments with the medium left her frustrated. Then God brought Breanna into her life. Joanna and Breanna met at a church bible study and became fast friends. And Breanna just happened to be a painter. Over coffee in early 2015, they decided to work together to create and sell their art. Brush & Nib Studio was born.

Now they work as a team. Joanna, a calligrapher, uses a nib to write in delicate and decorative fonts. And Breanna, a painter, uses a brush to paint beautiful, unique illustrations. “We bounce ideas off of each other,” says Joanna. “Sometimes one of us will start with a concept and the other will kind of build on it or vice versa. We may start with a lettering style, or start with an artistic idea, or a little drawing or sketch, or maybe the color will inspire it.”

Joanna and Breanna are Christians, and their faith is at the core of who they are and everything they do. They see their art as a way to reflect God’s beauty, and they pour their hearts into their custom creations. “Creating beautiful things is what I like to do,” says Breanna. “It’s a part of who I am. In every way we want to put as much of ourselves into our art as possible.”

What: Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix

Soon after they launched Brush & Nib, Joanna and Breanna learned about Phoenix City Code Section 18.4(B). According to city officials, this law requires them to create artwork promoting events and messages that go against their faith, including same-sex marriages. But it doesn’t stop there. The law even prohibits them from explaining that they can only create artwork consistent with their artistic and religious beliefs. Joanna and Breanna face up to six months in jail, $2,500 in fines, and three years of probation for each day that they violate this law.

Joanna and Breanna gladly serve everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, and they create art for many different occasions. But they cannot, in good conscience, promote an event that contradicts their beliefs.

And they shouldn’t have to. Freedom of speech means that people of good will are free to live out their beliefs without government hostility or punishment. There are countless people of good will, from faith traditions as diverse as Islam and Christianity, who share Joanna and Breanna’s beliefs about marriage – that it is the union of a man and a woman. No one should be bullied or banished from the marketplace for peacefully living out that belief.

Thankfully, we as Americans don’t have to wait for an unjust and unconstitutional law to be used against us in order to seek relief. Alliance Defending Freedom filed a “pre-enforcement challenge” (a challenge to a law before it is enforced) on Brush & Nib’s behalf, asking the courts to invalidate this unconstitutional application of Phoenix’s law.

When: May 2016 – Present

ADF filed this lawsuit in May 2016. On December 10, 2018, ADF filed its opening brief with the Arizona Supreme Court, which will hear the case on January 22, 2019. The Arizona attorney general joined by other states, numerous state lawmakers, various scholars, and a diverse array of business, artistic, and faith-based groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the Arizona Supreme Court in support of preserving artistic and religious freedom.

Where: Phoenix, Arizona

Brush & Nib Studio is in Phoenix, and it is challenging Phoenix’s attempt to use its ordinance to compel Brush & Nib to create art. But this is not the only law of its kind. ADF is defending creative professionals against similar laws in Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Washington.

Why: To uphold the constitutional rights of all Americans.

This case should matter to everyone. The freedom of all Americans to live, work, speak, and create consistently with their beliefs is at stake.

If the court rules against Joanna and Breanna, who’s to say that you will not be the next person forced to compromise your beliefs – regardless of what those beliefs might be. And if the government can decide which beliefs are permissible and which are not in the public square, we all lose.

The Bottom Line

The government shouldn’t threaten artists with fines and jail time to force them to create artwork that violates their beliefs.

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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