Article

A religious liberty victory in Kentucky

A unanimous ruling in favor of Blaine Adamson and Hands On Originals

Nov 1, 2019

In August, the ERLC noted a significant religious liberty court case in the state of Kentucky. The case was Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals centered on a situation from 2012 when Blaine Adamson, the owner of Hands On Originals, was asked “to create t-shirts promoting the local Pride Festival.”  

The request came from the Gay and Lesbian Services Organizations (GLSO). According to Becket Law, “because the message of the t-shirts conflicted with Blaine’s religious beliefs, he offered to connect GLSO with other printers who would match his price.” GLSO, however, was not satisfied with Adamson’s decision and attempt to help them without violating his conscience. GLSO “filed a complaint with the local human rights commission, which ordered Blaine to print the shirts and attend ‘diversity training’ to change his views.”  

Adamson rightly challenged the decision of the local human rights commission, which resulted in the case eventually working itself up to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.  

Not only must the government not be allowed to usurp God’s authority in matters of religious affection and practice, it also must not be allowed to compel its citizens to violate their conscience before God.

On Aug. 23, 2019, the Kentucky Supreme Court began hearing the oral argument of the case as the defendants have appealed the lower courts decision that concluded that Adamson’s right to free speech and religious liberty were violated by the human rights commission’s decision.  

On Oct. 31, the court ruled unanimously in favor of Blaine Adamson and Hands On Originals, stating that “the Lexington Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission went beyond its charge of preventing discrimination in public accommodation and instead attempted to compel Hands On to engage in expression with which is disagreed.”  

As Alliance Defending Freedom reported, “The Kentucky Supreme Court wrote in its opinion in Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals that “this matter must be dismissed because the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization, the original party to bring this action before the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, lacked statutory standing to assert a claim against Hands On Originals under the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government ordinance.’” The details of the court’s ruling can be found in the full opinion documents hosted at the ADF website.  

The Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision in this case is not one of special accommodation to protect Christians, rather the principles of free speech protect all people throughout society. As I have stated before, a government powerful enough to compel a Christian business owner to promote a message contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs is a government powerful enough to force a Kosher deli owner or Halal butcher to cater an event by serving pork.

This is not the type of authority government should have—to compel people to contradict their sincerely held beliefs, even if those beliefs are culturally disfavored. God is the judge of all humanity. God alone retains sovereignty over a person’s conscience. Not only must the government not be allowed to usurp God’s authority in matters of religious affection and practice, it also must not be allowed to compel its citizens to violate their conscience before God.

Casey B. Hough

Casey B. Hough is lead pastor at Copperfield Church in Houston, Texas, and a Ph.D. student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He also blogs regularly at www.CaseyHough.com. Casey and his wife, Hannah, have three sons and two daughters.  Read More