Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Washington, has been an artist for over 40 years. Her artistic talent is making floral arrangements. She serves everyone who walks into her shop and hires talented individuals, whether they identify as “gay” or “straight.” She had provided flowers for Robert Ingersoll for over a decade. Stutzman knew he was a homosexual and he knew she was a Christian. On March 1, 2013 Ingersoll walked into Arlene’s Flowers to order flowers for his upcoming “marriage” to his partner. Stutzman told him she was unable to create this floral arrangement because of her Christian beliefs and offered him a list of florists who would provide flowers for his “wedding.” Ingersoll said he respected her opinion, the two hugged and went their separate ways.
Unfortunately for Stutzman, Washington State has added the words “sexual orientation” to its Consumer Protection Act and its anti-discrimination laws which impact public accommodations, among other areas. And on April 10, 2013 Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a rare, private citizen lawsuit against Barronelle Stutzman. She said she was never offered a settlement, but an ultimatum: ‘Either you will do as I tell you to do; you will think the way I think; you will perform the way I think you should perform and create. And if you don’t, I’m going to destroy you.'” After Washington State filed the lawsuit against the florist, the American Civil Liberties Union filed another suit on behalf of the two “gay” men. The suits, since consolidated into Arlene’s Flowers v. Ferguson, were filed in Washington’s Benton County Superior Court.
Initially, the state of Washington was seeking $2,000 in fines for every reported violation, as well as a permanent injunction requiring the shop to violate its conscience or stop selling flowers for wedding ceremonies. Additionally, there is a separate fine of $7.91, which Ingersoll and his partner said is the cost of driving to find a new florist! As the story got out, Stutzman began receiving death threats.
In the latter part of 2014, Robert Ingersoll and his partner began a more personal attack on Stutzman and sued not only Arlene’s Flowers — but Barronelle personally. In January 2015 a Superior Court Judge ruled that she could be held personally liable for violating Washington’s Consumer Protection Act. Thus, she may end up losing everything she has worked for her entire life, if she loses her case! Stutzman recognized the implications, ““They want my home, they want my business, they want my personal finances as an example for other people to be quiet.” Judge Estrom also said in his 60-page opinion, ” No court has ever held that religiously motivated conduct, expressive or otherwise, trumps state discrimination law in public accommodations. Religious motivation does not excuse compliance with the law.” Just toss the First Amendment out the window!!
Meanwhile – just to show the double standard, a few months later in Illinois, a jury awarded $240,000 to two Muslim men who say they were fired from an Illinois trucking company after refusing to deliver alcohol. A judge found Morton-based Star Transport Inc. violated the religious beliefs of Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdikarim Hassan Bulshale. ”
During oral arguments in November 2016, the Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, as well as the ACLU attorney representing the same-sex couple, made it very clear that creative professionals should be forced to use their artistic abilities to promote events or speak messages that violate their faith. Ferguson admitted that Stutzman’s floral design work is “a form of expression,” and that “arranging these flowers is no less speech than writing a poem celebrating a particular message.” So Ferguson’s position is that if an artist makes a living through her expression, she must accept all requests to create expression, regardless of whether she considers some messages deeply offensive. Or she must be punished. Ferguson went so far as to say that Stutzman could not “do the wedding flowers for heterosexual couples and have another employee handle it for same-sex folks.”
In additional to federal constitutional protections, the Washington State Constitution also protects “freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief, and worship,” as stated in Article 1, Section 11. But, who reads constitutions anymore?? Even with these constitutional protections, the combination of legalizing same-sex “marriage” and odious “anti-discrimination” laws have faithful Christians saying their freedom of religion is being violated. And the court cases are piling up.
Today, February 17, 2017 the Washington State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Barronelle Stutzman was guilty on all counts! Barronelle Stutzman and her attorneys have said they will appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
David French wrote in the National Review, ” To understand how nonsensical and dangerous this is, one need merely apply it to other categories of expression. Is it now racial discrimination to refuse to bake a cake with Confederate flag icing, since the person asking for such a cake will almost always be white? Is it gender discrimination for fashion designers to refuse to “dress” Ivanka or Melania Trump? They’re women, after all.
But this is the sexual revolution we’re talking about, so it’s necessary for the court to make a statement declaring the government’s allegiances. Indeed, late in the opinion its author gave the game away. Picking up on the absurd and historically ignorant comparison of the modern gay-rights movement with the civil-rights movement in the segregationist South, the judge wrote, ‘This case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches.’
The gay couple in this case had no trouble finding flowers. Stutzman even recommended other florists who would have been happy to help them celebrate their wedding. So, given the absence of any real harm, the court said that the state had a compelling state interest in punishing the ‘independent social evil’ of discrimination toward a ‘broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace.’
We were told by those pushing for the legalization of same-sex so-called marriage that all they wanted was to be able to “marry” the one they love. It will have no impact upon your family or your life, we were told. Well, tell that to Barronelle Stutzman and the many other Christian business owners who have been sued and hauled into court because, as Christians, they cannot use their God-given talents to participate in something they know is sinful. As time goes on in this great social experiment, it is becoming more and more evident that the real purpose for adding “sexual orientation” to laws is to punish those who hold a deeply religious belief that homosexuality is sin.
Beware: If you are a Christian business owner, you are in the crosshairs of homosexual activists who are bent on making an example of you!
As Matt Barber wrote back in April 2013: ” Most homosexuals know intuitively, I think, that their lifestyle is unnatural and immoral and that the oxymoronic notion of “same-sex marriage” is a silly farce. Thus, they must force others to affirm both their self-destructive lifestyle and their mock “marriages” under penalty of law. They must physically compel everyone to engage their “emperor’s new clothes” delusion, so they can feel better about bad behavior.”
Today’s Christians in America have a choice to make, even as Joshua in his last days challenged the Israelites: “. . . then choose this day whom you will serve . . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24: 15) Whom will you serve?