It is ironic. No, not in the sense made famous by Alanis Morissette (it turns out that rain on your wedding day is purely a coincidence, not irony). But it is ironic when a business asserts the very right they refuse to support. That’s the irony of GoFundMe.com’s decision to shut down accounts used to support a florist and a baker.
In Washington State, we represent florist Barronelle Stutzman, accused of discrimination because she declined to use her artistic expression to celebrate the same-sex wedding of long-time customers. She sells flowers to any and all, but determined that she could not in good conscience use her business to celebrate a union that is inconsistent with her deeply held religious convictions. Similarly, in Oregon, a baker faced the same dilemma due to her faith. In fact, there are small business owners across the country defending against attempts to use state laws to force them to promote views of marriage and sexuality or participate in ceremonies that conflict with the owners’ earnest religious beliefs.
There is a cost to this exercise of freedom. Indeed, the early proceedings have found that the florist should pay the state of Washington $1000 in fines and she risks having to pay her long-time customers and their legal team hundreds of thousands of dollars because she chose to operate her business consistently with her faith. And last week an administrative judge recommended the Oregon baker pay $135,000 for acting on her faith. The florist’s case has already been appealed and an appeal is likely in the baker’s case.
In the face of these crippling fines and fees, GoFundMe accounts were set up to allow friends and supporters the opportunity to donate to their cause. Thousands of people responded and the accounts began to grow. But last week, GoFundMe unilaterally closed these accounts explaining in a blog post entitled "Protecting Our Community," that they did not want their business used to support the decisions of the baker and the florist.
- Photo from The Daily Signal
GoFundMe made a value judgment. Their business can be used by people to raise money for everything from support for the local dodge ball team to sending a speaker to a conference on global warming. But they refuse to allow their business to promote decisions they believe to be morally wrong. That is the same right exercised by the baker and the florist.
Evidently, GoFundMe wants to stand on the right to operate their business consistent with their moral convictions, but they refuse to support that same right for others.
Now, isn’t that ironic?