OLYMPIA, Wash. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing floral artist Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland filed their opening brief Tuesday with the Washington Supreme Court. The brief on behalf of Stutzman comes after the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the state high court’s previous ruling against her and ordered the Washington court to reconsider the case in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision.
In the Masterpiece case, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Colorado’s decision to punish cake artist Jack Phillips for living and working consistently with his religious beliefs about marriage, just as Stutzman has also been trying to do while under legal attack by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the American Civil Liberties Union. The two sued Stutzman after she declined, because of her faith, to personally participate in, or design custom floral arrangements celebrating, the same-sex wedding of a customer she had served for nearly 10 years.
“Barronelle serves all customers; she simply declines to celebrate or participate in sacred events that violate her deeply held beliefs,” said ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner, who argued on Stutzman’s behalf before the Washington Supreme Court in 2016. Waggoner also argued for Phillips before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Despite that, the state of Washington has been openly hostile toward Barronelle’s religious beliefs about marriage,” Waggoner explained. “It not only went after her business but also sued her in her personal capacity—putting all her personal assets, including her life savings, at risk. Rather than respecting her right to peacefully live out her faith, the government has targeted her because of her beliefs. Meanwhile, the state has applied its laws unevenly, choosing not to sue a coffeehouse owner who profanely berated and expelled customers for their Christian beliefs. In Masterpiece, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society. We are asking the Washington Supreme Court to affirm that in this case.”
While Ferguson failed to prosecute the coffeehouse, Bedlam Coffee, he has steadfastly—and on his own initiative—pursued unprecedented measures to punish 74-year-old Stutzman. The ADF brief explains that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling condemned those sorts of one-sided applications of the law against people of faith.
After Ferguson obtained a trial court order allowing him to collect on Stutzman’s personal assets, he publicized a letter offering to settle the case for $2,001. In exchange, he demanded that Stutzman give up her religious and artistic freedom. Stutzman responded, “It’s about freedom, not money. I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important.”
The Washington Supreme Court later ruled that Stutzman must pay penalties and attorneys’ fees for honoring her conscience. Rather than participate in a sacred event that violates her faith, Stutzman referred Rob Ingersoll, whom she considers a friend, to several other florists in the area. The two then discussed his wedding plans, they hugged, and Ingersoll left.
As the ADF opening brief in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers and Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers explains, the state shouldn’t be allowed to crush Stutzman’s conscience. Instead, “there is a better resolution to this case—one that prohibits businesses from refusing to serve customers simply because of who they are, but that protects the conscience rights of people like Mrs. Stutzman who respectfully object to creating custom art for, or personally participating in, ceremonies that violate their religious beliefs. This path is the only one that preserves First Amendment freedoms and protects people with politically unpopular beliefs about important topics like marriage.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
# # # | Ref. 17556