WA State Supreme Court Punishes Florist for Operating Business According to her Religious Beliefs

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In a much anticipated decision, Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman was punished today by the Supreme Court of the State of Washington for operating her business peacefully and lovingly according to her firmly and sincerely held religious beliefs.

Barronelle is a 72 yea-old grandmother who operates her business, Arlene’s Flowers. She gladly serves every person in who walks in her doors irregardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or beliefs but cannot celebrate all events. According to Alliance Defending Freedom:

In particular, because of her beliefs about marriage, she cannot design custom floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding (although she would be happy to sell premade arrangements or raw flowers to couples planning such an event).

So while she has been glad to serve Rob Ingersoll, a gay man and one of her all-time favorite customers, for nearly a decade (and would be happy to continue doing so today), she could not use her artistic talents for one request—to create custom arrangements designed to celebrate his nuptials.

But the State of Washington (which first filed a lawsuit against Barronelle) and now the State’s highest court have declared illegal her practice of running her business consistently with her faith. Regardless of the fact that she has created dozens of floral arrangements for Rob, she must also produce artwork under circumstances that would violate her convictions.

Alliance Defending Freedom plans to appeal this decision to the United States Supreme Court. By this ruling, the state of Washington has not only punished Barronelle Stutzman, but in essence has also sent the message to all other Washingtonians who own their own businesses that they will likely be forced to participate in creative expressions – even if they conflict with religious beliefs.

If the state of Washington has their way, this 72 year-old grandmother will be forced to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees racked up by the ACLU in prosecuting the case against her. For simply disagreeing with the state of Washington about marriage, the ACLU and the state of Washington have put at risk everything she owns. This includes not only her business, but also her family’s savings, retirement funds, and home.

Baronelle Stutzman said of today’s ruling, “Rob Ingersoll and I have been friends since very nearly the first time he walked into my shop all those years ago,” said Stutzman. “There was never an issue with his being gay, just as there hasn’t been with any of my other customers or employees. He just enjoyed my custom floral designs, and I loved creating them for him. But now the state is trying to use this case to force me to create artistic expression that violates my deepest beliefs and take away my life’s work and savings, which will also harm those who I employ. I’m not asking for anything that our Constitution hasn’t promised me and every other American: the right to create freely, and to live out my faith without fear of government punishment or interference.”

It’s wrong for the state to encroach on a person’s constitutional held rights by forcing them to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will. Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to the whim of a majority. The state of Washington has sent a clear message in this decision that it is intent on crushing those who offer dissenting opinion or beliefs about marriage, despite our nation’s long-standing precedent of protecting the right to dissent.

(2) Comments

  1. It is a mistake to give customers a lengthy explanation of why you don’t want to do something for them. It is always best to be vague when explaining why you cannot accept work and you owe no one any detailed explanation. You can simply state “I am not available” or “I am not available at that time” or “I am not feeling up to it.” or “I have other plans that I am not willing to change.” or “I am to busy” or “I have other obligations at that time.” or “I need time to rest, am not feeling well lately, couldn’t guarantee that I would be well enough to to that much work, etc.” You don’t have to direct your refusal toward the person personally nor make it about what kind of event they want you to provide for. You owe no one any explanation and if you explain in detail there will always be someone who is just baiting you so that they can sue and get “free money” instead of working for their money. I’m sure that there are “gay couples” who do little else but seek out the one and only person in town who is not willing to violate their religious beliefs and target them specificly just so that they can “punish them” for not approving of their conduct and sue them for money. It doesn’t matter to them that there is probably 12 other shops willing and eager to do the work for them…they will always target the one and only shop that is not willing to do the work. It is unwise to provide explanations other then “I am booked up and cannot take on more work at this time.” or something like that. That is also a good way to handle situations when a “client” or “customer” is someone you just simply don’t want to work for because they are to much a pain in the behind to deal with. She made the mistake of considering these kind of people to be her “friends” just because they acted friendly when buying from her. They are not her friends. She should refuse to do wedding for anyone who is not truly her friend. She doesn’t need to work for people who are a pain in the behind at her age. She has to much to lose…including her peace of mind, health, and enjoyment of life. Life is to short to put up with people like this guy was. It’s hard to fly like an eagle when you work for turkeys.

  2. When the Supreme Court hears a religious liberty case, they (admirably) go out of their way to make it clear that they are not questioning the sincerity of the plaintiff’s or defendant’s religious belief since that it s very personal.

    However, here I think the question is a little different. Stutzman won’t provide flowers for a gay wedding because it violates her strict belief in Christ. But according to her own Web site, she will provide flowers for Jewish and Muslim holidays. I think it is fair to ask: why is providing flowers for a gay wedding a violation of your belief in Christ, but providing flowers for the various events and celebrations of people who do not believe in Christ AT ALL—who “blasphemely” say that Jesus was a common man and not the son of God—does not? This seems very selective. So even in if it were unquestionably legal to decline your services for something that violated your religious beliefs, you cannot pick and chose which ones you’re willing to accept.

    Creating floral arrangements is not a religious calling or something in any way dictated by religious beliefs. It is one thing if they were trying to “force” a clergy member or a church to host their wedding. In those cases, the exemptions for closely-held religious beliefs are already in place. You own a business that provides flowers and you should do it. Even among the oppostite-sex couples you create flowers for, do you did down and ask about their religious beliefs and life history? Do you ask if they have already had pre-marital sex and then deny them flowers as well?

    The bottom line here is that she provides floral arrangement through a public business. Public businesses must operate within the law. Some people believe the Bible clearly shows that the white race is superior…if you felt that way and owned a restaurant, would it be okay for you to put a sign in on hthe window that says “No negroes allowed”? Providing flowers for a wedding is not a religious activity and does not imply and endorsement of the event for which you are providing the flowers. You should treat all of your customers equally and leave it up to God to deliver the ultimate judgment in the end.

    After all, He’s God—you’re not.



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