2017 | Week of February 20 | #1191
“If they can do this to me, they can do it to anyone.” That’s what 72-year-old Christian grandmother and creative professional Barronelle Stutzman of Washington State said in a news interview recently.
Barronelle was referring to the state of Washington coming after her in a no-holds-barred fashion when in 2013 she politely and graciously declined to use her God-given creative gift to beautify the marriage ceremony of two men.
Barronelle is a florist. Over the years she had done quite a bit of business with Rob Ingersoll. In fact, Barronelle says, “Rob Ingersoll and I have been friends since very nearly the first time he walked into my shop all those years ago. There was never an issue with his being gay, just as there hasn’t been with any of my other customers or employees. He just enjoyed my custom floral designs, and I loved creating them for him.”
The rub came when Rob asked Barronelle to do the flowers for his same-sex wedding. After what she thought was a kind refusal and explanation about her belief that God designed marriage as an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman, Rob seemed ok and he and Barronelle hugged before he left the shop. Barronelle thought their friendship would continue—until she was charged with violating Washington State’s anti-discrimination laws. That began years of legal wrangling through every level of state court.
In 2015, the State of Washington Attorney General offered Barronelle a settlement, which she refused. The AG offered to dismiss the lawsuit if Barronelle would pay $2,001 and give up her religious freedom. By this time the case had expanded beyond going after Barronelle’s business, Arlene’s Flowers, and now included targeting her personal assets, including her home, savings and retirement.
This courageous woman responded to the AG saying, “Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. 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…. You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating, and having a home….”
Last November, the Washington State Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Barronelle’s case; and late last week, the Court handed down its decision. The court unanimously agreed with the lower courts and said indeed Barronelle was guilty of illegally discriminating against a protected class of citizens—homosexuals. As of right now, not only does this floral artist who is a member of a Southern Baptist Church and wants only to be obedient to her Lord’s teachings, stand to lose not only her business but all her personal assets as well, she is also on the hook for the ACLU’s attorney’s fees accumulated in pursuing this case against her.
Our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom have represented Barronelle throughout this battle and will continue to do so as she is now petitioning the US Supreme Court to take her case.
We cannot afford to miss what is happening here. The State of Washington wants to make Barronelle Stutzman an example—not just in Washington, but everywhere. They want to crush this brave woman under their heel, destroy her so that others who believe as she does will not dare to stand up for what they believe for fear of losing everything. Apparently the courts, in defiance of the US Constitution’s clear statement about religious freedom, are very willing to be complicit in this raw bullying and bold-faced intimidation.
Cases such as this one vividly show that those who support a liberal agenda will stop at nothing to get what they want. In particular, they seek to silence those who stand in their way, which so very often is Christians who desire to live out their beliefs 24/7 in their homes, their businesses, and in all public places.
Our religious freedom is at stake. As Barronelle said, “If they can do this to me, they can do it to anyone.” May God grant Barronelle continued grace and courage as she stays in the battle on behalf of all the other anyones.
For Wisconsin Family Council, I’m Julaine Appling, reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”