ADF explains the 'Masterpiece'-Stutzman connection

Tuesday, June 26, 2018
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

Barronelle Stutzman (Christian florist)America hasn't heard the last of religious business owners who decline to create things for events that violate their beliefs.

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case of floral artist Barronelle Stutzman (pictured) back to the Washington Supreme Court after vacating that court's ruling and instructing it to reconsider her lawsuit in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court 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," explains Stutzman's attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom. "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 ten years."

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent both Stutzman and Phillips.

Waggoner

"Barronelle serves all customers but declines to create custom art that expresses messages or celebrates events in conflict with her deeply held religious beliefs," explains ADF attorney Kristen Waggoner.  "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 Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop. The U.S. Supreme Court has rightfully asked the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider Barronelle's case in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision."

Attorney Brad Dacus of Pacific Justice Institute likes what the U.S. Supreme Court did this week with the Stutzman case.

Dacus, Brad (PJI)"That was a very important decision because it sends a loud message to that [Washington] court that there's a good chance that they decided incorrectly, based upon the earlier decision dealing with the Phillips case," Dacus tells OneNewsNow.

"[Here's] the bottom line: the Supreme Court is requesting the state of Washington to realize ... that they can't have a process of adopting and implementing laws or ordinances that are clear[ly] ... biased and attacking of a particular group because of their ideology or beliefs contrary to that group. [So] I think this is a definite strong signal to the courts in Washington and the rest of the country when it comes to contemplating efforts to adopt discrimination statutes that end up actually showing bias and discrimination in their implementation."

Waggoner says the Court also provided general guidelines on evaluating the remaining free speech and free exercise claims that it did not need to decide in Jack's case.

"First, it told the government that both sides need to treat one another with dignity and with respect," she explains. "Second, it said that no one should be bullied or banished because of their beliefs about marriage. Third, it said that the government must apply the same rule to both sides of the same-sex marriage debate; and fourth, it clearly indicated that in some instances, speech – including artistic impression – will be protected."

According to Waggoner, what that means practically for Stutzman's case is that all of the arguments made in her case, as well as Phillips' case, remain in play.

"Turning to the government hostility argument in particular, the state of Washington, acting through its attorney general, has shown hostility here," the attorney claims. "The state not only went after Barronelle's business, but sued her in her personal capacity as well. That's unprecedented in Washington state in such a case."

Waggoner says the attorney general also bypassed a procedure that the AG's office has always followed in public accommodation cases to instead punitively and relentlessly pursue her.

"It has also declined to apply the same standard to a coffeehouse that had a complaint because the gay coffeehouse owner excluded religious patrons," says Waggoner. "Tolerance is a two-way street. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we must extend it to others – and we are confident that in the end, this principle will be followed in Barronelle's case."

U.S. Supreme CourtStutzman says she is very grateful that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed her case to continue.

"I risk losing everything I own because I choose not to participate in a same-sex wedding of a long-time friend and customer," Stutzman adds. "Without receiving a complaint from Rob [Ingersoll], the state of Washington has targeted me for over five years. I'm here today because my state attorney general of Washington is hostile to my religious beliefs."

Stutzman says it didn't bother her then, and it doesn't bother her now that her friend and customer is gay, adding she opted out of participating in one event in ten years because scripture teaches her that marriage between a man and a woman.

"I gave Rob a list of other, nearby florists who I knew would make his wedding beautiful," she continues. "Rob has the freedom to act on his beliefs about marriage. I'm only asking for that same freedom."

Stutzman adds this just isn't about her freedom, but everyone's freedom: "If the government can tell you what event you must celebrate or take away all you own if you decline to violate your faith, then we don't live in a free America."

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