BLOGWashington Supreme Court Punishes Barronelle Stutzman. What Now?

By Jim Campbell Posted on: | February 16, 2017



I Support Barronelle

After much anticipation, the Washington Supreme Court has punished Barronelle Stutzman for peacefully operating her business consistently with her faith. The court’s decision affirms a lower-court ruling that requires Barronelle to pay the attorneys’ fees that the ACLU racked up in suing her. Often, in cases like this, the attorneys’ fees for each side are hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.

Barronelle is a 72-year-old floral artist who owns and operates Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington. She serves everyone in her community, regardless of their race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation. But even though she serves all people, she cannot use her artistic skills to celebrate all events. In particular, because of her beliefs about marriage, she cannot design custom floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding (although she would be happy to sell premade arrangements or raw flowers to couples planning such an event).

So while she has been glad to serve Rob Ingersoll, a gay man and one of her all-time favorite customers, for nearly a decade (and would be happy to continue doing so today), she could not use her artistic talents for one request—to create custom arrangements designed to celebrate his nuptials.

But the State of Washington (which first filed a lawsuit against Barronelle) and now the State’s highest court have declared illegal her practice of running her business consistently with her faith. Regardless of the fact that she has created dozens of floral arrangements for Rob, she must also produce artwork under circumstances that would violate her convictions.

Alliance Defending Freedom will continue to stand with Barronelle by appealing this ruling against her to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Barronelle’s story demonstrates a troubling trend—governmental agencies and officials that have grown increasingly hostile to religious freedom, particularly the freedom of people who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. These widespread efforts to suppress freedom are rooted in a disdain for this particular religious belief—a belief that, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, is “decent and honorable” and held “in good faith by reasonable and sincere people.”

President Trump, who has promised to make religious liberty the “first priority” of his administration, has an opportunity to take a stand against the ongoing efforts to marginalize people of faith. Reports have surfaced suggesting that he is considering an executive order to protect religious freedom.

The leaked draft of the executive order shows that President Trump is contemplating specific protections for people who, like Barronelle, “act (or decline[] to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.” The document also makes clear that individuals “do not forfeit their religious freedom when . . . earning a living” or “participating in the marketplace” or the “public square.”

Signing such an order would send a strong message throughout the country—that people like Barronelle deserve religious freedom too.

But even though that order would be a significant step in the right direction, it would not solve all the problems facing Barronelle and many other ADF clients (such as Jack Phillips and Carl and Angel Larsen). Their state or local governments (as opposed to the federal government) are the bullies depriving them of their First Amendment freedoms. So even if the president sets a good example, much work remains to be done to secure freedom’s future.

Here’s how you can help right now.

In the wake of this decision, Barronelle needs your prayers. This ruling is devastating for her. Please join with us in praying for her during this difficult time.

And as we lament this ruling that denies freedom not only to Barronelle but also to millions of people of faith who share her beliefs about marriage, it is also important to encourage President Trump to sign an executive order protecting religious freedom. It won’t be a cure-all, but it would definitely be a step in the right direction.

If you’re willing to write an email to President Trump that asks him to keep his promise to defend religious freedom, click on the link below. (And for some ideas on what to write, visit this link.)

Write My Email

Jim Campbell

Senior Counsel, Director of the Center for Cultural Engagement & Scholarship

Jim Campbell serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is director of the Center for Cultural Engagement and Scholarship.

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