What in the world is happening in the State of Washington?
Today, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against floral artist Barronelle Stutzman for the second time – putting her at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court once again.
Barronelle is a 74-year-old grandmother who owns Arlene’s Flowers. Barronelle loves designing custom floral arrangements that speak profound messages ranging from celebration to grief. And she welcomes and serves everyone who sets foot in her shop – many of them long-time customers.
Rob Ingersoll fell into that category. He had been coming into the shop for nearly ten years and was one of Barronelle’s favorite customers.
One day, an employee told Barronelle that Rob had been at the shop looking for her. He wanted her to design the floral arrangements for his same-sex wedding. After some prayer and reflection, Barronelle decided that because of her Christian beliefs about marriage, she could not celebrate that particular event with her artistic talents.
While she gladly serves all people – and would gladly serve Rob for another ten years – she cannot express every message or celebrate every event through her floral art.
When Rob returned to the store, she took his hand in hers, explained how much she cares about him, told him that she couldn’t create custom arrangements for his wedding because of her religious beliefs, and referred him to three other florists that she knew would do a good job. Rob said he understood, and the two hugged before he left.
But the government was not satisfied.
When the Washington State attorney general read about this interaction on social media, he decided to file a lawsuit against her – setting out to make an example of her. Later, the ACLU also sued Barronelle on Rob’s behalf.
It’s been six years since the state sued Barronelle, and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has been defending her in court ever since.
Two years ago, in February 2017, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against Barronelle for the first time. That decision upheld a lower court ruling against Barronelle, requiring her to pay the attorneys’ fees that the ACLU racked up in suing her – fees that threaten not only the business that she bought from her mother, but also her personal savings.
But there was a glimmer of hope last year.
In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court wiped out the Washington Supreme Court’s 2017 ruling against Barronelle and asked the state court to reconsider her case based on its ruling in the Masterpiece case. In that case, the High Court rebuked the state of Colorado for its impermissible hostility toward cake artist Jack Phillips’s religious beliefs about marriage – beliefs that Barronelle shares and that the Supreme Court has called “decent and honorable.”
Unfortunately, the Washington Supreme Court did not give sufficient weight to the hostility that the Washington state government has shown toward Barronelle. That hostility can be seen in many ways:
- The attorney general went after Barronelle even though Rob did not file a complaint against her.
- The attorney general sued Barronelle not only in her professional capacity, but also in her personal capacity – which puts her personal assets at risk.
- While the state has pursued unprecedented measures to punish Barronelle, it did not file a lawsuit when another business obscenely berated and discriminated against Christian customers.
That’s more than enough to show hostility toward Barronelle’s religious beliefs about marriage. But the Washington Supreme Court said that none of it matters. The only hostility it was concerned with is hostility from a state court or judge. But the attorney general shouldn’t get a free pass just because he isn’t a judge. The Constitution protects us from all government officials—not just judges.
As ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner put it: “[It] takes a special kind of focused hostility to target this woman, to relentlessly pursue her business and personal assets, all for the purpose of making an example of her. Yet that’s exactly what the State of Washington is doing.”
Please join us in praying that the Supreme Court will make it undeniably clear that no creative professional like Barronelle should be punished – and face losing everything they own – for living and working consistently with their beliefs.