From a small print shop in Lexington, Ky., business owner Blaine Adamson embroiders slogans on hats, prints messages on T-shirts, and wonders if his Christian beliefs could cost him the company he’s owned for over a decade.
For the Lexington native who aspires to live quietly, a noisy crisis erupted three years ago.
In March 2012, a representative from the local Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) approached Adamson’s company—Hands On Originals—about printing T-shirts promoting Lexington’s annual gay pride festival.
Adamson said no.
“It was because of the message,” he says. “Sexuality is clearly defined in Scripture between a married man and woman, and anything outside of that is something I just can’t promote.”
It wasn’t the first time Adamson had declined business.
The printer—whose business includes a “Christian outfitters” division for churches and other groups—says he’s turned down orders with vulgar slogans and images he found disrespectful (including a design of Jesus in a pirate’s outfit). Orders promote messages, he says, “and we partake in that and we help speak that message as soon as the image is printed on the T-shirt.”
Adamson told the GLSO he couldn’t print shirts with the gay pride logo because of his Christian beliefs. He offered a referral to another printer in town who would offer the same price.
Three weeks later, the private exchange was public fodder.
A GLSO board member filed a complaint against Hands On Originals with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, saying Adamson discriminated against group members because of their sexual orientation.
Local media ran the story, and a Facebook page called “Boycott Hands On Originals” drew 1,000 fans in two days. Critics flooded Adamson’s phone lines, the mayor rebuked him, and nearly 60 protesters demonstrated against the company in a downtown park. One protester’s sign declared: “I’m straight, not narrow.”
Adamson explained he had served gay clients in the past but simply didn’t want to participate in a message of gay advocacy. Still, three of the company’s biggest customers—including the University of Kentucky (Adamson’s alma mater)—announced they wouldn’t place new orders with the print shop until the complaint was resolved.
Last October, the Lexington human rights commission ruled Adamson violated local anti-discrimination laws. Commissioners ordered the company not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and to undergo “diversity training.” They also said GLSO was due compensation for its “economic loss, pain, embarrassment, and humiliation.”
(GLSO president Aaron Baker—who had told a local paper he wanted “the entire community to be aware” of the case—also acknowledged an Ohio-based company offered to print the group’s $3,000 shirt order for free.)
Adamson is appealing the ruling, and his attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) argue that his case—like similar ones winding through courts across the country—is at a crucial intersection between religious liberty and free speech.
Adamson—a husband and father of three—says he’s most concerned for the livelihood of his 32 full-time workers, including gay employees who have stayed with the company through the ordeal. “But the reality is I can’t change my conscience, and I can’t mold it to conform to society,” he says. “God doesn’t change, and His Scriptures don’t change. So I’ll hold the line.”
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SOURCE: WORLD Mag