By: Katie Heller
On Wednesday, the Washington Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Barronelle Stutzman. Barronelle is a local floral artist, who was sued by both the American Civil Liberties Union and the state attorney general when she declined, due to her religious beliefs, to use her artistic abilities to design custom floral arrangements for a long-time friend’s same-sex ceremony.
Barronelle’s case has far-reaching effects beyond just Christian business owners who wish to operate their businesses consistent with their faith. If the state supreme court upholds the lower court’s ruling forcing Barronelle to violate her conscience and takes away her right to free speech, then the free speech and the conscience rights of all people in the State of Washington who wish to operate their business according to their personally held beliefs will be subject to government veto.
As the ADF reply brief points out:
“The trial court’s and [the state’s and the ACLU’s] view—that there can never be a free speech exception to public accommodation laws—endangers everyone. If correct, then the consciences of all citizens are fair game for the government. No longer could a gay print shop owner decline to print shirts adorned with messages promoting marriage between one man and one woman for a religious rally. Nor could an atheist painter decline to paint a mural celebrating the resurrection of Christ for a church. Indeed, no speaker could exercise esthetic or moral judgments about what projects to take on where a customer claims the decision infringes on his or her rights under the WLAD [Washington Law Against Discrimination].”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner said, “Barronelle and many others like her around the country have been willing to serve any and all customers, but they are understandably not willing to promote any and all messages. We hope the Washington Supreme Court will affirm the broad protections that both the U.S. Constitution and the Washington Constitution afford to freedom of speech and conscience.”
Join us in prayer for Barronelle and her legal team as she continues to take a courageous stand for her right to freely live out her faith.
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