In September, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the fundamental freedoms of speech and religious exercise for Phoenix artists Breanna Koski and Joanna Duka, writing: “The rights of free speech and free exercise, so precious to this nation since its founding, are not limited to soft murmurings behind the doors of a person’s home or church, or private conversations with like-minded friends and family.”
But for over six years, the State of Washington has told Barronelle Stutzman that the price of entering the public square is to compromise her religious beliefs.
The Washington attorney general, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have sued Barronelle for declining to design custom floral arrangements celebrating a same-sex wedding that violated her religious beliefs.
The same-sex wedding was that of a customer she had served for nearly 10 years.
Barronelle referred that longtime customer, Rob Ingersoll, whom she considers a friend, to several nearby florists rather than take part in an event that violates her faith. The two then discussed his wedding plans, they hugged, and Rob left.
Later, the attorney general heard about Barronelle’s decision through social media and decided to sue her.
Now, for the second time, Barronelle is waiting to hear if the U.S. Supreme Court will take up her case. Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the Washington Supreme Court’s first ruling against Barronelle back for reconsideration in light of the decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop. The state court came back with the same result, repeating verbatim much of what it said in its first decision.
Since then, 17 states, 43 members of Congress, and a variety of legal experts and religious groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in favor of Barronelle’s freedom—and, by extension, the freedom of other creative professionals—to decline to create artistic expression and participate in events with which they disagree. nbsp;
Take a look at some of the most insightful quotes—and reasons why the Supreme Court should hear Barronelle’s case—from these friend-of-the-court briefs:
- Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, and Individual Rights Foundation
“[T]he requirement to advance a dictated message ‘in your own words’ is even more antithetical to the First Amendment, because at least with a government script ... the audience recognizes that the speaker has no choice in the matter. The government has corrupted only one choice: to speak or not to speak. But when the government mandates the creation of expression, the artist is left with a million artistic decisions corrupted by the need to reach the forced result.”
- The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, The Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team of the Religious Freedom Institute, and The Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty
“Washington State can no more compel dissenting citizens to attend and participate in weddings they find objectionable as a matter of conscience than it can fine them for missing Mass on Sunday.”
- United States Senators and Representatives
“These cases affect more than the parties. Under the Washington Supreme Court’s reasoning, few limits would remain on government power to compel speech. A government could compel a Democratic-affiliated musician to write a campaign song for a Republican presidential nominee or an African-American clothing designer to design shirts for the Ku Klux Klan … These and countless possibilities do not reflect—and profoundly undermine—our longstanding First Amendment traditions. This Court’s guidance is needed.”
- 17 States
“…the record here establishes that like the governmental entities in Masterpiece Cakeshop, the governmental entity here has pursued this case solely because it objects to Stutzman’s religious beliefs. That is hardly consistent with the principles of ‘open discourse,’ ‘a tolerant citizenry,’ and ‘mutuality of obligation’ that underpin our republican system of government.”
First Amendment scholars
“There is reason to believe that our nation is currently in the midst of heightened conflict and stress. Observers on all sides notice the growing―and increasingly acrimonious―political and cultural polarization in the country. And issues involving sexuality (abortion, contraception, marriage, LGBT affirmation) have been at the center of these divisions. Such conditions can intensify the impulse to achieve an artificial and compelled conformity. But they also underscore the importance of courageously reaffirming the most essential constitutional principles, rather than sacrificing such principles to currently prevailing movements and orthodoxies.”
Please join us in praying for the Justices as they consider whether to take up Barronelle’s case.
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