US Supreme Court sends floral artist case back to Washington court in light of Masterpiece decision
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case of floral artist Barronelle Stutzman back to the Washington Supreme Court Monday, after vacating that court’s decision and instructing it to reconsider her lawsuit in light of the recent decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
In that similar case, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Colorado’s decision to punish cake artist Jack Phillips for living and working consistently with his religious beliefs about marriage, just as Stutzman has also been trying to do while under legal attack by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the American Civil Liberties Union. The two sued Stutzman after she declined, because of her faith, to design custom floral arrangements celebrating the same-sex wedding of a customer she had served for nearly 10 years. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent both Stutzman and Phillips.
ADF will host a media briefing featuring Stutzman and ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner at 12:30 p.m. EDT (9:30 a.m. PDT) Monday. Interested media may participate online or by calling (425) 440-5100 using guest PIN 356719#.
“Barronelle, like Jack, serves all customers but declines to create custom art that expresses messages or celebrates events in conflict with her deeply held religious beliefs. The Washington attorney general’s efforts to punish her because he dislikes her beliefs about marriage are as impermissible as Colorado’s attempt to punish Jack,” said Waggoner, who argued on Stutzman’s behalf before the Washington Supreme Court in 2016. Waggoner also argued for Phillips before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has rightfully asked the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider Barronelle’s case in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision,” Waggoner explained. “In that ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court denounced government hostility toward the religious beliefs about marriage held by creative professionals like Jack and Barronelle. The state of Washington, acting through its attorney general, has shown similar hostility here.”
Waggoner points out that Ferguson failed to prosecute a business that berated and discriminated against Christian customers. In contrast, however, Ferguson has steadfastly—and on his own initiative—pursued unprecedented measures to punish 73-year-old Stutzman not just in her capacity as a business owner but also in her personal capacity, threatening her personal assets, including her life savings. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling condemned those sorts of one-sided, discriminatory applications of the law against people of faith.
After Ferguson obtained a court order allowing him to collect on Stutzman’s personal assets, he publicized a letter offering to settle the case for $2,001. In exchange, he demanded that Stutzman give up her religious and artistic freedom. Stutzman responded, “It’s about freedom, not money. I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important.” The ACLU hasn’t made any similar settlement offer.
The Washington Supreme Court later ruled in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers that Stutzman must pay penalties and attorneys’ fees for declining to design custom floral arrangements celebrating longtime customer Rob Ingersoll’s same-sex ceremony. Rather than participate, Stutzman referred Ingersoll, whom she considers a friend and had served for nearly 10 years, to several other florists in the area. The two continued to chat about the ceremony, they hugged, and Ingersoll left.
“Rob was my customer and friend for over nine years,” said Stutzman. “I knew he was gay, and it was never an issue. I serve everyone. He enjoyed my custom floral designs, and I loved creating them for him. I would gladly serve Rob if he were to come back to my shop today. The attorney general has always ignored that part of my case, choosing to vilify me and my faith instead of respecting my religious beliefs about marriage.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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