The Arizona Republic
What we create is an extension of who we are
Sometimes, common joys and struggles form the best friendships. For us, the joys are faith and art. The struggle is a courtroom battle.
Our friendship began at a collegeand-career group Bible study. We soon realized that we shared some common interests: our faith and a passion to create something beautiful.
You see, we are artists. We believe God is delighted when we use the artistic gifts he’s given us, and when we do so his way. When we reflect God’s creativeness in small ways through our art, it reveals something about him. God is using us to create beauty in the world, and that’s amazing. So we cannot separate our faith from our artistry. What we create stems from who we are. And who we are depends on who God is and what he has done for us. That’s how interwoven we see our art and faith.
Those common beliefs led to a natural collaboration. Soon, we opened Brush & Nib Studio — Brush because Breanna is a painter, and Nib (a specialized pen tip) because Joanna is a calligrapher. Around a year later, however, we found ourselves not just sketching designs and finalizing projects, but in court — asking a judge to protect our right to speak and create freely. You see, even though we went into business hoping to create art that expresses God’s creativity and character, Phoenix is jeopardizing our freedom to do so.
Threatening criminal fines and jail time, Phoenix is using its law to force artists right out of the marketplace and into a cell unless they compromise their deeply held beliefs and craft art conveying messages that the government — but not the artists — approves. If artists won’t convey those messages, Phoenix calls that discrimination. We call it ar- tistic freedom.
The two are worlds apart. When artists happily create artwork for everyone, but cannot create artwork celebrating certain ideas for anyone, they’re simply exercising their freedom to choose what to say. A Muslim artist, for example, who serves Christians but declines to depict Christ’s resurrection for a church is not discriminating against Christians. She’s just not endorsing a Christian message. That logic should apply to all artists. Why force an artist to create works celebrating something they don’t believe in? That’s just a recipe for bad art — and bad government.
Our case is not really about whether you happen to like our personal values or the artistic decisions we make. It’s really about freedom to create and to live according to deeply held beliefs.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled, in Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, that governments must treat religious beliefs like ours with tolerance and respect. And a few weeks later, Justice Anthony Kennedy explained that “governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions.”
That’s what we’re asking the Arizona Supreme Court to recognize. Throughout history, artists and people of faith have stood for the freedom of all Americans to live and work in accordance with their beliefs. And now, it’s our turn.
That’s something we could not have imagined when we met at a Bible study. Now, we can only hope and pray for another chapter to our journey together: a day at the Arizona Supreme Court, fighting for freedom. For everyone.