Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Washington state, arranged flowers for all kinds of customers, including homosexuals. In fact, she served at least one she considered a friend.
But when that friend asked her to arrange flowers for his “wedding,” even though he knew Stutzman was a Christian, she declined based on her religious beliefs that marriage is the union between one man and one woman and that homosexuality is a sin not to be celebrated.
The man complained, and the so-called American Civil Liberties Union and the state’s attorney general went after her personally and her business. She stood to lose her livelihood, her life savings, and her religious freedom. Christian legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) stepped in to represent her.
Stutzman lost in the lower court and Washington Supreme Court.
“The message of these rulings is unmistakable: the government will bring about your personal and professional ruin if you don’t help celebrate same-sex marriage,” ADF attorney Kristen Waggoner said at the time. “Laws that are supposed to prohibit discrimination might sound good, but the government has begun to use these laws to hurt people—to force them to conform and to silence and punish them if they don’t violate their religious beliefs on marriage.”
But fortunes turned when the U.S. Supreme Court in June vacated the state court’s ruling that Stutzman discriminated against homosexuals and asked the court to reconsider her case. ADF recently filed a brief in the case.
“As the ADF opening brief in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers and Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers explains, the state shouldn’t be allowed to crush Stutzman’s conscience. Instead, ‘there is a better resolution to this case—one that prohibits businesses from refusing to serve customers simply because of who they are, but that protects the conscience rights of people like Mrs. Stutzman who respectfully object to creating custom art for, or personally participating in, ceremonies that violate their religious beliefs. This path is the only one that preserves First Amendment freedoms and protects people with politically unpopular beliefs about important topics like marriage.'”
Because the high court ruled in another Christian business owner’s favor, the state’s high court must take this ruling into account when hearing Stutzman’s case for the second time. Let’s hope the judges have gained a better understanding and respect for the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment freedom of religion.
La Shawn Barber edits the Black Community News website.