As you may have seen while scrolling through your social media feeds this week, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was making the rounds, featured in a Nike ad with the words: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
The ad refers to Kaepernick’s decision in 2016 to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. While his actions were widely debated across the country, I don’t want to get into that here.
What I do want to point out is that Colin Kaepernick is not the only one standing for his beliefs. And he’s certainly not the only one who is “sacrificing everything.”
Perhaps you’ve heard of our client Barronelle Stutzman.
Barronelle runs a family business, the floral shop that her mother started called Arlene’s Flowers. She and her husband live on a small farm in rural Washington. For them, faith and family come first – she’s a Christian, a mother, and a grandmother. By most standards, Barronelle lives a quiet life.
Well, let’s just say, it was a quiet life… until March 2013.
When Barronelle’s longtime customer, Rob Ingersoll, walked into the shop that day, she never expected that her life was about to change. And she had no reason to. Barronelle had served Rob for nearly 10 years, designing floral arrangements for all sorts of occasions in his life – birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. She knew Rob was in a relationship with another man, and Rob knew Barronelle was a Christian.
But that March, Rob had a different type of request. He asked Barronelle to design floral arrangements celebrating his same-sex wedding. Barronelle took his hand in hers and gently explained that she could not take on that particular request because of her religious beliefs about marriage. She then gave him the names of three other floral artists in the area that she knew would do a good job. Rob said he understood, they hugged, and he left.
Barronelle has always served everyone who walks through her doors. She enjoys designing creative and unique floral arrangements for her customers. Barronelle loves and serves everyone, but she cannot celebrate every event or express every message through her floral art.
But that is not enough for the State of Washington. After hearing about Barronelle’s decision to refer Rob to another floral artist, the Washington Attorney General decided to make an example of Barronelle and sued her – not just in a professional capacity, but in her personal capacity as well.
That means Barronelle could lose not only her business, but also her and her husband’s home, their farm, their savings, their retirement, and everything they’ve put aside for their kids and grandkids.
Barronelle believes in something. And it may cost her everything.
Yet, still the message from Barronelle’s opponents is loud and clear: she must either give up her beliefs, or everything she owns.
Thankfully, in June, the U.S. Supreme Court breathed new life into Barronelle’s case when it wiped out a Washington Supreme Court ruling against her. Now, the Washington courts must reconsider Barronelle’s case in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, which rejected government hostility toward the religious beliefs about marriage held by creative professionals like Barronelle.
Until then, Barronelle continues to live under the threat of government punishment, enduring hateful messages and death threats, and fighting in the courts for her right to peacefully live and work according to her beliefs.
Still, she finds joy in the midst of the pain.
“I just came to the realization that Christ stood up for me,” she said. “Do I think so much less of Him that I wouldn't stand up for Him?”
Standing for our beliefs often comes with a cost. When push comes to shove, are we willing to lay it all on the line for what we believe?
Here in America, not many of us ever have to answer that question outside of a hypothetical context. But Barronelle does. And she continues to answer with a resounding “yes.”