It’s been a long five years for Washington floral artist Barronelle Stutzman.
When she gently explained to her longtime customer and friend Rob Ingersoll that she could not design custom floral arrangements for his same-sex wedding because of her religious beliefs about marriage, she thought that would be the end of it. Barronelle serves everyone – just as she served Rob for nearly 10 years. She simply cannot use her artistic talents to celebrate every event or express every message.
She didn’t anticipate the death threats and hate mail. She didn’t anticipate the lawsuit that threatens to take away everything she owns both professionally and personally: her floral shop, her family farm, her retirement savings, and everything she and her husband have saved for their children and grandchildren.
Quite frankly, those are things that she shouldn’t have to worry about in a tolerant society. The First Amendment protects the right of all people to live and work according to their faith without fear of government punishment.
Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips. Jack was sued for declining to design a custom cake celebrating a same-sex wedding in violation of his religious beliefs. In a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled that the state of Colorado was wrong to punish Jack for running his business consistently with his religious beliefs about marriage.
This is an important victory for religious freedom, but it doesn’t mean that Barronelle is out of the woods yet.
Last year, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal for Barronelle to run her business consistently with her faith and that she can be punished for doing so. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it has been held pending a decision in Jack’s case.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the government must respect Jack’s religious beliefs about marriage, it has the opportunity to further affirm that in Barronelle’s case. It’s a principle that could use some repeating, given the growing trend of government officials and agencies that are hostile toward religious freedom, particularly the freedom of people who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
But the government should never be able to single out certain religious beliefs for negative treatment simply because they are not in line with the government-favored viewpoint. Not in Colorado, not in Washington, not in America.
That’s why we are defending a number of creative professionals across the country in addition to Jack and Barronelle: a promotional printer in Kentucky, a custom art studio in Arizona, a graphic designer in Colorado, and filmmakers in Minnesota, to name just a few.
Jack’s victory was a significant one, but it doesn’t stop there. The religious and artistic freedom of Barronelle and many other creative professionals is still at stake. And that means your freedom is still at stake, too.
What the Supreme Court decides to do with Barronelle’s case is critical. And we continue to pray and hope that the Supreme Court will provide Barronelle with the same protections it afforded to Jack.
After all, government hostility toward people of faith has no place in America.