Ky. Voices: Respect my right to follow my conscience

April 1, 2012 

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This is the design for front of the proposed T-shirt.

PHOTO COURTESY GAY AND LESBIAN SERVICES ORGANIZATION OF LEXINGTON

Recently, Hands On Originals was called upon by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington to make shirts for the upcoming Lexington Pride Festival scheduled to take place this June. After thinking about the request, I decided to pass on the opportunity because, as a Christian owner, I cannot in good conscience endorse groups or events that run counter to my convictions.

Of course, there is nothing unique about my decision not to be involved in the Lexington Pride Festival on the basis of conscience. Such decisions have always been left to the discretion of business owners. As we recently stated publicly, "Due to the promotional nature of our products, it is the prerogative of the company to refuse any order that would endorse positions that conflict with the convictions of the ownership."

Nevertheless, GLSO has filed a human rights complaint against us over our decision to pass on the opportunity to make the shirts, and many incredibly wrong judgments are being made publicly about our decision and the reasons behind it.

Outside of the statement I issued, Hands On Originals has not engaged in public debate with regard to the allegations against our company because we hoped to allow the complaint to move along according to the usual process for such matters.

We hoped that our customers, the community, the city, and especially the mayor, would allow the investigation to take place before rushing to judgment and making decisions about contracting our services. Unfortunately this has not been the case, and so we hope this column will help to set things right.

To be very clear, Hands On Originals does not and never has discriminated against any individuals or groups. As my earlier statement clarifies, we both employ and do business with people from all walks of life.

My decision not to print the shirts requested of us has nothing to do with who was ordering the shirts; it had only to do with the message of the shirts no matter who was ordering them.

In this situation, the message is in disagreement with my values. My faith calls me to love all people regardless of whether they share my values or not.

Our more than 20 years of business in the community illustrates this principle. I understand that not everyone shares my view on this issue. I do not expect, or even ask, people to agree with my view.

All I ask is for people to respect my right as an owner to not produce a product that is contrary to my principles.

In our case, I hope many in this community will stand with us for the rights of small business owners not to be forced into producing a product with a message that conflicts with their beliefs and consciences. One can envision many scenarios where a small business owner should have this right — and they do.

Over the past 20 years, we have declined to produce several other products with different messages than the one at issue here because we disapproved of whatever message it was, and it never had anything to do with discrimination. People reading this may disagree with my view on the current issue, but I hope they will join us in supporting our right to decline an order that promotes a view so contrary to our personal beliefs.

I ask that you join us in support of the rights of everyone to stand in defense of their beliefs. I hope everyone will have the same respect and tolerance for views and beliefs that may differ from their own.

Blaine Adamson is managing owner of Hands On Originals in Lexington.

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