The Point: Hands On Didn’t Discriminate

Bake the cake, arrange the flowers, print the shirt. Or else. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

Kentucky t-shirt designer Blaine Adamson does not refuse to serve gay customers. As he wrote recently at Alliance Defending Freedom, he never has. But when asked to design and print shirts for a gay pride parade, he declined, offering to refer his customers elsewhere. They sued, and a county human rights commission found Adamson guilty of discrimination.

Adamson and his business, Hands On Originals, have won reversals by two higher courts. Now, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization has asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to get involved.

This battle, and others like it will greatly depend on what the U.S. Supreme Court decides in the Masterpiece Cake Shop case. Adamson is a powerful illustration that Christian business owners aren’t refusing to serve gay people. It’s a false narrative. What they’re refusing is to use their artistic talents to convey messages that conflict with their beliefs.

It’s a freedom we have in a country whose Constitution protects both speech and religion.



Blaine Adamson
  • Client story | Alliance Defending Freedom

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  • Tyler

    I think that’s the important distinction to make, is there no protection for conscience in the law? If a white supremacist group asked to have t-shirts made, and the company refused, would anyone defend them? I am certainly not looking for ways to defend the speech rights of white supremacists, what I am defending is equal treatment under the law. If I was having a pig roast, I wouldn’t ask a Kosher deli to cater, and if I mistakenly did because of ignorance of their practices, I would apologize and gladly go elsewhere. I think this is the classic case of predatory self-victimization. Another frequent commentator on this forum even admitted that a certain group goes out of their way to find establishments like Hands On, ask them to do things they know are against their beliefs knowing full well that they will refer them elsewhere, just so that they can sue.

    • Joel Stucki

      Right on, and nice analogy with the Kosher deli.

      It’s like a lawyer defending a person in court whom they know to be guilty of the crime. Guilty or not, that person has a right to legal representation, and that defender isn’t defending that individual only, but also that constitutional right. It may be distasteful, but it’s a lot less distasteful than throwing out the Constitution. Freedom is a little messy.

      • Tyler

        Can you clarify for me? On the one hand it sounded like you agreed with what I said, but then the second part sounds like you’re saying at certain times people have an obligation to do things that oppose their values in one regard, but ultimately uphold a different (or even higher?) value (such as Constitutional rights). Not trying to be combative, just curious. Thanks!

        • Joel Stucki

          Oh, sorry…yeah, I wasn’t disagreeing with you at all, I just meant that if we’re going to have a free society, it means that sometimes people will be uncomfortable. Freedom is messy.

          And even as I type this, to be honest, I’m having a hard time remembering what my overall point was! Ha! But I think what I meant was that even people who have views we find distasteful have a right to have those views.

          In the case of the public defender, it is their job, specifically, to defend anyone, guilty or innocent. But that is a specific job, and they are ultimately serving the constitution, not the client.

          • Phoenix1977

            “I just meant that if we’re going to have a free society, it means that sometimes people will be uncomfortable.”
            Except LGBTs aren’t “uncomfortable”. We are treated as second class citizens by people like Blaine Adamson, Jack Phillips, Baronelle Stutzman, Aaron and Melissa Klein and Kim Davis. We are not “uncomfortable”. We are fighting for our right to be and our right not to be discriminated against!

    • Phoenix1977

      “If I was having a pig roast, I wouldn’t ask a Kosher deli to cater”
      Would that perhaps be because they don’t sell pork to begin with? If you want to buy pork and you go to a kosher deli and ask them to sell you pork you are either ignorant or plain old dumb (sorry, Gina). It would take you 20 seconds on Google to find out kosher (and halal) deli’s don’t sell pork, to anyone.

      And that’s also where the analogy goes wrong. Kosher deli’s don’t sell pork to anyone, because they don’t sell pork, period. Print shops, like Hands On Originals, sell custom made t-shirts and other things to everyone, except LGBT organisations. Just like Masterpiece Cakeshop sold custom made wedding cakes to everyone, except LGBT customers and Baronelle Stutzman would be happy to make custom designed floral arrangements for your wedding, as long as you are not LGBT.
      Should your hypothetical deli sell pork to anyone except Christians, you would have a point. Now, you simply don’t.

      • Gina Dalfonzo

        While we’re setting the record straight, Phoenix, you have some details wrong too. Hands On sells to LGBT customers. They just do not sell certain products, to anyone.

        • Phoenix1977

          So Hands on Originals would not sell, let’s say, custom designed wedding shirts to anyone? Or just not for same-sex weddings? Or for Bachelor / bachelorette parties? Or a sponsor run against HIV / AIDS, organised by an LGBT organisation?
          You do realize this is exactly the same discussion as the one on Masterpiece cakeshop, right? If Hands on Originals would refuse t-shirts for an LGBT event while having no problems creating the same type of shirt / message for a “straight” event they are discriminating, no matter how many times people scream “First Amendment”. And most likely that will be the ruling by the Supreme Court on the case against Jack Phillips as well.

      • Tyler

        You’ve misunderstood my argument. My point is that a person should have the freedom to use their business in accordance with their values. The logical play out of this would be if I went to a kosher (sure or halal) deli even ignorantly asking for pork, and they said, “I’m sorry we don’t serve pork, it’s against our religion, but Hank’s Meats across town does,” I wouldn’t be offended. If logic is applied equally, wouldn’t you have to be offended that the kosher deli doesn’t serve pork? If a white supremacy group wanted a TV commercial run in your area, should the TV station be required to run the ad? Certainly not saying being anything other than straight is on par from being a racist, point being that I feel like there are concessions made for businesses to operate according to their conscience in some areas, but not others.

        • Phoenix1977

          “My point is that a person should have the freedom to use their business in accordance with their values.”
          And they do, as long as they serve all customers equally. So refusing to sell a product to everyone based on your believes (like pork by a kosher or halal deli) fits. Refusing to sell a product to one group of customers while willing to sell to another group (like custom designed wedding cakes or t-shirts) does not fit. That constitutes discrimination and is therefor illegal in 32 states in the US.

          “If a white supremacy group wanted a TV commercial run in your area, should the TV station be required to run the ad?”
          I’m European. White supremacy is forbidden in Europe. Being a white supremacist automatically makes you a criminal. So airing a commercial for a white supremacy organisation equals aiding and abetting. Another analogy that goes wrong. Do you know why? Because there is no excuse to discriminate, period!