What does intolerance look like?
You hear that word, and what comes to mind? Unreasoning, illogical dislike for people different from oneself? Someone unaccepting of others that don’t see the world their way? When you try to teach your children and grandchildren that intolerance is wrong, how do you explain such behavior? What do you say – whom do you point to – to illustrate how evil and wicked and unkind “bigotry” really is?
This week, in newspapers and on radio and TV programs across America, the “wanted posters” for bigotry bear a picture of Barronelle Stutzman. So take a good look at her story, and decide.
Barronelle Stutzman is an accomplished florist in the small Washington town of Richland, who for nearly 40 years has poured heart and soul into her creations for her customers. One of those customers was so vocally appreciative of her efforts that the two became friends, and he enlisted her time and again to create special arrangements for special occasions. He tried to enlist her to bring her creativity to bear on floral designs for his upcoming same-sex wedding, but there, because of her faith, Barronelle had to draw the line.
To Barronelle, marriage is a God-ordained institution, and as such, should reflect His design for it as the union of one man and one woman. It’s a view her friend and customer may not agree with, but seemed to understand, when Barronelle gently shared it with him.
It is not a view shared by the attorney general for the state of Washington. He has filed suit against Barronelle – and his public comments make it plain that, if she doesn’t surrender her faith on this point, he intends not only to penalize her business, but to shut it down. He plans not only to punish her, but to destroy her life.
So far, the courts are helping him toward that goal. Last week a state judge in Washington granted a summary judgment ordering Barronelle to provide her full support for wedding ceremonies that violate her conscience and deepest religious convictions. (Because the judge issued a summary judgment, at the request of the attorney general, the case won’t go to trial – so, for now, Barronelle won’t have the benefit of having her case heard by a jury of her peers.)
Earlier this year, the same court ruled that both the state of Washington and the same-sex couple (who, with the American Civil Liberties Union, have filed their own lawsuit against her) may collect damages and attorney’s fees not only from Barronelle’s business, but from her personally. That means she may lose, at age 70, not only her business, but her home, retirement, and life savings – just for trying to live and work according to her faith.
“The Washington State Constitution expressly states that religiously motivated conduct is limited by the police power of the state,” the judge said in his ruling last week.
“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,” says ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner, who argued before the court in December. “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 faith and conscience on marriage.”
Think about that. And about what you and those you love would do. How many of your own religious beliefs – how much of your conscience – will you be willing to give up, if your government orders you to do so … or else? Will you, and your pastor, and the people of your church, teach your children and grandchildren what the Bible says is right and true… or what you believe will keep them out of trouble with the government’s latest demands?
Think about that, and pray for your country. Pray for Barronelle. Pray, please, for Alliance Defending Freedom, as we stand with Barronelle and the growing number of Christians like her who are falling prey to an increasingly insatiable social and legal and political agenda that demands our absolute and unquestioning obedience.
Pray, in the words of the old hymn, that God will “grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days.”