Judge Nips Florist’s Freedom in the Bud
By Tony Perkins
How will same-sex “marriage” affect your home? A lot, if you don’t have one to come home to. That’s the stunning predicament Barronelle Stutzman finds herself in after a judge found the Christian florist guilty late yesterday. The popular grandmother, who’s been a fixture in her Washington community for 37 years, knows the cost of conviction — and if the state gets its way, she’ll be paying it.
Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom has officially made Stutzman’s house, assets, and life savings fair game in the fierce debate over religious liberty. In a lengthy 60-page opinion, the court argues that Barronelle’s “relationship with Jesus Christ” doesn’t give her the freedom to turn down business — even if that business violates her personal beliefs.
“Religious motivation does not excuse compliance with the law,” Ekstrom wrote in his decision about the 2013 store flap. When long-time customers approached Arlene’s Flowers about making centerpieces for their same-sex “wedding,” Barronelle politely declined. But here’s the catch. Stutzman didn’t deny the men flowers, as the media wrongly suggests, but arrangements — which would have required Barronelle to use her personal artistry to express what she believes is a sinful message.
Despite that compromise, she was hauled in front of a court by — not just the couple, but the State’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, who, in a highly unusual step, went after the grandmother personally. Wednesday, Judge Ekstrom ruled in favor of both cases, dealing a huge blow to Stutzman, who stands to lose everything for exercising the very right our forefathers came to America for.
As far as the court is concerned, there is a “direct and insoluable conflict between Stuzman’s religiousl-motivated conduct and the laws of the state of Washington.” In the clash between religious liberty or same-sex “marriage,” something has to give. And that “something,” this court says, is freedom. It’s a sobering indication of where this country is headed, said ADF attorney Kristen Waggoner.
“The message of these rulings is unmistakable: the government will bring about your personal and professional ruin if you don’t help celebrate same-sex marriage… You put your home, your family business, and your life savings at risk by daring to defy a government mandate that forces you to promote views you believe are wrong.” As for Barronelle, who had already launched a counter-suit against Washington State, her request is simple: “I just want the freedom to live and work faithfully and according to what God says about marriage without fear of punishment. Others have the freedom to say or not what they want to about marriage, and that’s all I’m asking for as well.”
If you think Barronelle’s situation is an isolated one, think again. On the same day that Arlene lost her case, tech giant Apple was outed for firing an Alabama lobbyist who had supported natural marriage when he was a state legislator! Like FRC’s Craig James, who never mentioned his views on the job, Jay Love got the boot for voicing his opinion years earlier as a state legislator.
A local Alabama newspaper smoked Love out in a hit piece that no doubt went straight to Apple CEO (and open homosexual) Tim Cook’s desk. “While it isn’t unusual rhetoric from Republicans and even many Democrats running for office, especially in conservative states like Alabama,” reporters blogged, “it does seem slightly unusual he was hired as a lobbyist by Apple, unless of course, Apple didn’t know of his past stance on the subject of same-sex ‘marriage.'”
Love’s contract was terminated the same day. So this is tolerance? The kind that says the biggest publicly-traded company in the world can fire someone for their views — but a small business doesn’t have the right to turn down a morally objectionable job? This new Brendan Eich lost his livelihood through the same politics of fear, intimidation, and oppression. Who knows how many will be next if America doesn’t wake up?
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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