I’ve had the pleasure of talking with or listening to Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips and Washington floral artist Barronelle Stutzman several times during my years at Alliance Defending Freedom. And each time, I’m struck by the grace with which they handle themselves. You would think that years of litigation would take such a toll on each of them that you couldn’t miss it. But you never see it. They simply continue to strive to live in obedience to God.
Both Jack and Barronelle were sued more than five years ago for declining to use their artistic talents to celebrate events that violate their faith. Jack was approached by a same-sex couple to design a custom cake to celebrate their wedding, and Barronelle was approached by a longtime customer to design custom floral arrangements for his same-sex wedding.
But while Jack and Barronelle serve all people, they can’t promote all messages or help celebrate all events.
That’s why Jack offered to sell the couple anything else in his store or design a cake for a different event. And it’s also why Barronelle explained to her customer, whom she had been serving for nearly ten years, that she could not participate in that particular event because of her relationship with Jesus Christ. But she did offer to refer him to a few other florists in the area that she knew would do a great job.
Still, they were sued. The couple filed a complaint against Jack with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. And in Barronelle’s case, the Washington Attorney General filed a lawsuit against her after hearing about the incident on Facebook. And then the ACLU followed close behind in a separate suit.
Jack and Barronelle have courageously stood up for their rights to artistic and religious freedom through years of litigation. But they’ve never been in it for themselves. They took a stand because they want to honor God in all they do. And they want to ensure that all creative professionals can do the same.
Through it all – the rulings against them, the hate mail, the death threats – they’ve consistently acted with grace, humility, and obedience to God.
Would you react the same? I often wonder if I would.
Think about what Jack has faced as a result of his stand.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered Jack to start designing custom cakes for same-sex weddings or stop designing custom cakes for weddings altogether. The state also ordered him to “re-educate” his staff, explaining that it is discriminatory for him to act on his religious beliefs about marriage. And he must file quarterly reports to the state about what cake designs he declines and why.
As a result, Jack has stopped designing wedding cakes, which has cost him around 40 percent of his business. But even harder than that, the loss of business forced Jack to reduce his staff by over half.
When you factor in the hate mail, threatening messages, and death threats against Jack and his family, you wonder how the man can continue to persevere. And yet he does.
Think about what Barronelle has faced as a result of her stand.
Barronelle has also endured hateful mail, threatening phone calls, and death threats. But her case is unique because the Washington Attorney General has not only gone after her in a professional capacity, but also in her personal capacity. Barronelle could lose everything she owns.
Just think about that for a moment.
We’re not just talking about the family business started by her mother. We’re talking about her and her husband’s home, their farm, their savings, their retirement, and everything they’ve put aside for their many kids and grandkids.
Is this really the price we must pay for disagreeing with a government-favored viewpoint?
That doesn’t sound like America.
And yet Barronelle perseveres.
ADF is representing Jack and Barronelle free of charge because religious and artistic freedom must be defended. ADF argued Jack’s case before the U.S. Supreme Court on December 5, and we are currently awaiting a decision. What the court rules in Jack’s case could possibly impact Barronelle’s case, which is also pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.
I don’t know if I could handle what Jack and Barronelle have been through. And I certainly hope I never have to find out. But I am truly grateful for their stand. Because if the government has the power to force its citizens out of business and threaten to take everything they own simply because they do not agree with the government-favored viewpoint on marriage, that’s something that concerns me. And, really, it should concern us all.
After all, what viewpoints might the government target next?
Whether or not you agree with Jack and Barronelle on marriage, consider what their cases could mean for you – and for the future of America.
And stay tuned as we await the decision In Jack’s case from U.S. Supreme Court that will come sometime this term. Because if Jack prevails at the Supreme Court, it’s a victory that will benefit us all.