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Arizona Artists Win Free Speech Case in State Supreme Court

On Monday, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in favor of the free speech and religious liberty of Christian artists Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski of Brush & Nib Studio in Phoenix.

The creative duo creates custom wedding invitations and their deeply-held religious beliefs would not allow them to create invitations that celebrate same-sex “marriage.” Therefore, they proactively challenged the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance that prevents businesses from discriminating against individuals based in part on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” to protect against future prosecution under the law.

While Duka and Koski believe that their stance is just a reflection of their desire to run their business based on biblical truths, the city of Phoenix countered that a refusal to use their talents in this way would violate its anti-discrimination ordinance.

The Arizona Supreme Court agreed on Monday with the business owners with a 4-3 ruling. Justice Andrew Gould, writing for the majority, said, “Duka and Koski’s beliefs about same-sex marriage may seem old-fashioned, or even offensive to some. But the guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion are not only for those who are deemed sufficiently enlightened, advanced, or progressive. They are for everyone.”

Despite the jab of the condescending and patronizing description of their beliefs, these artists won a victory not only for themselves, but also for others like them, at least in Arizona.

However, the city of Phoenix will continue to enforce the anti-discrimination ordinance on other businesses. “The city of Phoenix’s anti-discrimination ordinance is still a legal, valid law and remains in effect,” city spokesman Julie Waters said.

News Sources

The Arizona Supreme Court Strikes a Powerful Blow for Free Speech and Religious Freedom
National Review

Artists Don’t Have to Make Same-Sex Wedding Invitations, Arizona High Court Rules
Courthouse News

Arizona Supreme Court upholds Christians’ right not to make same-sex ‘wedding’ invites
LifeSiteNews

City of Phoenix, 18-4 Prohibited Acts (Anti-Discrimination Law)
City of Phoenix Code

Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix
AZcourts.gov

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Duke University Rebuffs Young Life Group

The student government of Duke University has denied religious group Young Life official status as a campus student group because the evangelical organization bars homosexuals from serving as leaders.

The Colorado-based Christian organization, which has chapters in schools and colleges in all 50 states and more than 90 countries, has a clause in its sexuality policy that prohibits “persons who engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle” from serving as staff members or as volunteers in the organization.

Duke Student Government Senate members noted that Young Life’s policy violated the school’s mandate that all student organizations include a non-discrimination statement in its constitution and proposed that Young Life alter its policy to comply. Young Life refused, citing its national chapter policy prohibiting the change. Thus, the Duke Student Government Senate refused to officially recognize the group. Without official recognition, Young Life is forced to meet at off-campus sites.

Interestingly, Young Life doesn’t say that those practicing sexual misconduct, including homosexuals, can’t be a part of the group, just that those individuals can’t lead the group. And that makes sense, says Wendy Griffith of CBN News, who likens Young Life’s leadership restriction to any political group that wants its leadership to hold to the same viewpoint as the group.

However, Religion News writer Yonat Shimron opined that Young Life would be hard-pressed to prevail in a religious liberty lawsuit against the university. “Duke may be in a different category as a private institution,” said Shimron. “Private universities don’t have the same obligations under the First Amendment’s free exercise clause that a government entity does.”

News Sources

DSG rejects Christian organization Young Life as chartered student group
Duke Chronicle

Young Life’s Statement of Faith
Google Docs

Duke University Rejects Youg life Group Over Christian Beliefs
CBN News

Duke University’s student government rejects Young Life over LGBTQ policies
Religion News

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Cross Will Remain on Pennsylvania County Seal

Lehigh County, Penn., is celebrating its victory for religious liberty preserving the Latin cross on its 70-year-old county seal after being attacked by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).

FFRF believed the cross on the county’s seal violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit disagreed that the county was somehow trying to establish a religion by its seal and looked to other cases concerning cross memorials to make its decision.

The court’s opinion states, “The Lehigh County seal fits comfortably within a long tradition of state and municipal seals and flags throughout our republic that include religious symbols or mottos, which further confirms its constitutionality.”

Diana Verm, senior counsel at Becket, which represented the county, said, “It is common sense that religion played a role in the lives of our nation’s early settlers. Recognizing that is just as constitutional as honoring symbols like the Liberty Bell.”

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Christian Women’s Shelter Can Say No to ‘Transwomen’

The Downtown Hope Center, a Christian-based ministry providing shelter to battered women in Anchorage, Alaska, won a victory last week against the “trans” lobby and for the safety and privacy of the women it serves.

Specifically, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission (AERC) from enforcing a municipal anti-discrimination ordinance against Hope Center pending the outcome of the center’s lawsuit challenging the applicability of the ordinances.

In 2018, a “transwoman” identified in court papers as “Jessie Doe” was twice denied access to the overnight shelter due, according to the facts in the court order, to policy violations unrelated to his trans-identity. Days later Doe filed a complaint with the AERC, accusing Hope Center of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The AERC investigation found that the center had violated municipal ordinances prohibiting discrimination relative to “public accommodation” and rentals. Hope Center sued in federal court, contending that homeless shelters are not deemed public accommodations under the law and that it is within its First Amendment right of religious liberty to operate as it does.

In issuing the injunction, Judge Gleason ruled that the civil rights ordinance and the rental law do not apply to homeless shelters because they are not places of “public accommodation.

The AERC can appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit or pursue a trial on the merits in the District Court.

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South Carolina City Officials Scrub Word ‘Lord’ From Police Memorial

City officials in Tega Cay, South Carolina, removed three references to the word “Lord” on a memorial for fallen policemen that was installed at a new police station in the city.

Almost immediately, the city began receiving complaints about the “religious” inscription on the memorial, which was donated by a civic group. The front of the stone memorial displays Matthew 5:9 from the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” On the back is a personal prayer for courage and compassion with two references to “Lord” that appears on similar memorials across the country, including Washington, D.C.

Said Tega Cay City Manager Charlie Funderburk, “There is [sic] just as many people upset now that it got removed over people upset it was there in the first place. There is no win here at all.” Since the memorial held no historical significance, Funderburk said the city decided to scrub out the references to “Lord.”

FOX News contributor Jonathan Morris commented on FOX & Friends, “What they are trying to do is erase the name and the voice of God in the public square, and that is not good for our country.”

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