By: Blanca Castillo, Liberty University
It was a warm and sunny Friday evening in mid-March, and I, unlike most college students with spare time to kill before finals, found myself seated in a crowded conference room making small talk with strangers while we waited for the special guest speakers to be announced. My school’s pre-law society had arranged an interview with two alumni representatives of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and had passed out some fairly appealing flyers promising a free meal to those in attendance. Naturally, I made it a point to come.
After fifteen minutes of friendly conversation and dining, the collective murmur of the crowd hushed to a silence as the club’s president introduced Alison Howard and Kerri Kupec of ADF. The two women each gave a brief description of their careers and quickly jumped into a passionate discussion of what Alliance Defending Freedom stands for. They gave personal insight into current cases and the clients they represent, rolled an eye-opening video which explained crazy legislative moves and the battle to overturn them, and elaborated on the foundational importance of protecting religious freedom.
Truth be told, I am in school to study government; however, that isn’t the reason why I found ADF’s mission to be so captivating and significant.
The first story on the presentation video was that of the Washington florist, Barronelle Stutzman. Barronelle, a 70 year-old grandmother and artist, lit up the screen as this warm and loving woman who’s followed her passion and managed to make a successful living creating floral arrangements for all kinds of events. Shortly after Washington recognized same-sex marriages, Barronelle’s long-time customer asked her to design arrangements for his same-sex ceremony. As much as Barronelle dreaded hurting her friend’s feelings, her faith teaches her that marriage between a man and woman is sacred. She could not use her artistic abilities to design custom floral arrangements and participate in a same-sex ceremony. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Washington State attorney general sued her. Now she is facing devastating fines and loss of her entire livelihood. With the threatening arm of the Washington attorney general and the ACLU looming over her, Barronelle’s only defense came through the actions of ADF. Through their extensive efforts to spread awareness of this injustice, ADF has managed to walk along side Barronelle during her legal battle.
Like Barronelle, I am an artist. One of my greatest passions in life is making portraits and I currently use this talent as a means of supporting myself in college. I hope one day to create a business out of it and use it as an outlet to give back to poverty stricken communities across the U.S. and Latin America. It’s disheartening, however, to see that in a nation so adamant about protecting civil liberties, we’ve forgotten to shelter the essential right of religious freedom… and now artists and small business owners alike are paying the penalty for it. This is the first time I’ve understood that one slight mention of my faith could result in the ruin of my future business and livelihood.
I've always been very complacent and detached when it came to taking a stand to protect our faith, especially in such an enforced secular environment like a public school system, but listening to the stories about all of the clients ADF represents completely changed my perspective.
I now understand that when people fail to protect the foundational right of freedom of conscience in pursuit of more expansive government programs and judicial control, we lose out on that first great ideal of free freedom of religion the Constitution was created for. We trail down a path never intended for us and, in the end, we will all suffer.
Thank you, ADF!