BreakPoint: Washington State Punishes Barronelle Stutzman

Gay Weddings over Religious Freedom

The Washington State Supreme Court has punished a florist for running her business according to her faith.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Washington State issued its much-anticipated opinion in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers and Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers.

The only way to see this decision is as a major setback for religious freedom.

The case involved an anti-discrimination complaint brought against Barronelle Stutzman, the 71-year-old owner of Arlene’s Flowers, and I might add, one of the nicest people on the planet. Three years ago, a long-time customer whom Stutzman considered to be a friend, asked her to create a floral arrangement for his same-sex wedding.

Stutzman declined because her Christian belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman prevented “her from using her artistic talents to promote contrary ideas about marriage.” Instead, she referred him “to three other floral design artists who she knew would do a good job.”

The customer then filed suit against Stutzman and was joined by the State of Washington.

In 2015, the trial court found that Stutzman had violated Washington’s anti-discrimination law and ordered her to pay a $1,000 fine—and the ACLU’s legal fees, which could approach a million dollars.  Also, Stutzman could no longer operate her business according to her beliefs without risking further legal sanction.

The appeal to the state Supreme Court drew so much interest that arguments were held in an auditorium at a local college instead of at the Court’s facilities. Judging by the justices’ questions and response, they didn’t appear to be sympathetic to Stutzman’s plight.

So sadly, it was no surprise that the Court ruled unanimously against Stutzman. It rejected her claim that any “discrimination,” if it existed, was on the basis of marital status and not sexual orientation. In a case of déjà vu all over again, it cited Obergefell’s language and then took it even a step further, claiming that to not service a same-sex wedding serves to “disrespected and subordinate” gays and lesbians. For this and other reasons, the Court concluded that Washington’s anti-discrimination law applied to Stutzman.

The court then turned to the question of her rights under the U.S. and Washington State constitutions. And to put it straightforwardly, the Court was unsparing in its rejection of her claims.

It ruled that her floral arrangements weren’t “speech” but instead “conduct,” and that this conduct “does not inherently express a message about [a same-sex] wedding,” any more than providing flowers for an Islamic wedding amounts to endorsing Islam.

Citing Employment Division v Smith and analogous cases under Washington’s constitution, it rejected her free exercise claim that the Washington law could only be upheld if it served a compelling governmental interest in the least restrictive means possible.

Justice McCord wrote that even “assuming that [the Washington law] substantially burdens Stutzman’s religious free exercise, [it] does not violate her right to religious free exercise under either the First Amendment or (the Washington Constitution) because it is neutral, generally applicable law that serves the state government’s compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.”

As our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented Stutzman, put it bluntly: “[T]he Washington Supreme Court has punished Barronelle Stutzman for peacefully operating her business consistently with her faith.”  Now ADF will appeal to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, they ask us to pray for Barronelle and to urge President Trump to keep his campaign promise and make religious liberty “a first priority” by signing an executive order to protect religious freedom.

Look folks, for more than 40 years we’ve been fighting the courts to save the unborn. Now we find ourselves at the beginning of a long march to restore religious freedom—our first freedom under the constitution. We cannot grow weary.

And I ask LGBT advocates, is this really what you’re fighting for, to destroy people like Barronell Stutzman, your neighbors who have served you and the community kindly for so many years?

Come to BreakPoint.org for more on yesterday’s tragic ruling and to find out what you can do to support Barronelle Stutzman and religious freedom.

Further Reading and Information

Washington State Punishes Barronelle Stutzman: Gay Weddings over Religious Freedom

To read more about the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision, check out the resources below. For information on supporting Barronelle Stutzman, click here.

 

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Resources

Washington Supreme Court Punishes Barronelle Stutzman. What Now?
  • Jim Campbell
  • Alliance Defending Freedom
  • February 16, 2017
The Liberty Threat: The Attack on Religious Freedom in America Today
  • James Tonkowich
  • Saint Benedict Press
  • July 2014
Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom
  • Ryan T. Anderson
  • Regnery Publishing
  • August 2015
Barronelle Stutzman's Story
  • ADF support website

  • Tom Rath

    It will be interesting to see what new arguments ADF attorneys bring in petitioning SCOTUS compared to those they made three terms ago in the case of the New Mexico photographer. Review of that case was denied by the full Court (Elane Photography LLC v. Vanessa Willock)

    • Oshtur

      There are none, even Professor Eugene Volokh of the conservative law blog ‘The Volokh Conspiracy’ doesn’t think its going anywhere:

      I doubt the U.S. Supreme Court will review the case further: It could only review the First Amendment issue (since the state supreme court is the final decision-maker on the state constitutional issue), and the compelled speech case here is weaker than in the New Mexico wedding photographer case, which the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear. The other First Amendment arguments in the case also seem unlikely to interest that court.

  • JRV

    Where are the stories from the mainstream media outlets about the LGBTQ-owned businesses since this issue became much more known in past years? Being denied at the conservative/Christian-owned businesses had to have sent everybody to the LGBTQ-owned ones. The businesses owned by LGBTQ have to be making money hand-over-fist. They have to.

    • DixieAngel_76

      Seems to me like they’re making more money setting up unsuspecting Christian business owners.

  • Henry

    Unless they repent these judges will not spend their time in glory but in hell. Sad, but unavoidable.

  • bodica

    Did they make the argument that the LGBT ‘clients’ were harassing the florist for his/her religious beliefs, and that the initial request was ‘entrapment?’

    • Oshtur

      The business invited the public and the responding customers can be assured that they will not suffer discrimination because of creed, séx, or sexual orientation. The only person religiously discriminating here is the owner.

  • bodica

    Washington judiciary is notoriously NASTY! See FB’s ‘Victim of Indu Thomas,’ the LGBT endorsed Family Court ‘Commissioner’ systematically destroying families in Thurston Co – a woman completely devoid of any knowledge or consideration of the law, a bench bully. See “The Robing Room” and check out Indu Thomas, Thomas Lack and in Housing Court, Jessica Zimmer.
    Note, Washington State is allowing the harassment of military, seniors and white families in (apparently) Saudi acquired HUD buildings in order to replace them with JIHADIS! Un-be-lievable! The Communist strategy of colonising beautiful State of Washington with California and NY leftwads, and planting a wacko University and High school in the State is actually paying off.
    If you want to see what HRC and Obola planned for the USA, drive through down town Olympia at 7-9 am! Apocalyptic!

    • DixieAngel_76

      Washington has plenty of ‘leftwads’ as you put it. They don’t need to import any.

  • MakingaDifference

    I am not sure I see this as an attack on religious freedom. This is a business establishment that just happens to be a florist. While you have convictions regarding same-sex marriage, your business is not endorsing that lifestyle. Let’s be consistent. For example, do you know everyone’s story that is purchasing flowers that comes in your store? What if that person who was not married, yet was living with his girlfriend comes in to buy flowers? Are you denying them? Or if there was sharply dress man who was committing infidelity that came in to buy flowers for his mistress…do you deny him? In short, do you know every customers background to determine who you will sell to? No….and why? Because you do not have a screening process for everyone coming in the door and you would not be in business very long if you did.

    While I understand your convictions, this is not the same as say a church being asked to perform a wedding. I agree that a church should not have to waiver since it is in its core theology and is not a business. That is very different.

    Actually, by providing flowers for your friend, you could have had more of an open door for sharing Christ.

    As a business leader, we must be careful because the door can swing hard in the opposite direction. For instance, do you know that there are companies that provide discounts to non-profits. Yet, if you are a church or religious organization, they are explicit that you do not qualify for any such discount. This is becoming more common practice and it does more harm to those of us who are serving Christ through our workplace.

    This is where we as Christian business owners need to step up our game. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul wrote:

    “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone,to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

    The climate in our country has changed and while I do understand your convictions, I personally feel that you would have a greater witness and would have more of an open door to reach the lost.

  • Faith White

    WA State is under demonic delusion. Please pray God will bring justice for Barronelle Stutzman against this horrible discrimination against her and her business.

  • Neal Smith

    ……………We haven’t seen anything yet. If this Country does not return to God’s will for it, & the moral values that made it great….only it’s downfall will follow.

  • D NewMan

    I looked for Justice McCord, referenced above – should it be Justice McCloud instead?

  • Christopher

    Yes Barronelle YOU just keep on fighting! YOU are Fighting for ALL of OUR FREEDOMS!
    Where oh where are you pastors, and padres, and mega churches, and other assorted men and women of God?
    Where indeed are the men of God? You get paid a salary there pastor, go out and earn your pay. “this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” Thessalonians 2 3:10.
    You all are a disgrace for not having ALREADY raised a million dollars to defend this women and our freedoms too by the way!
    God bless Barronnelle Stuzman and God Bless America!!!