Acton Institute Powerblog

Florist Chooses Conscience Over Settlement

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coverstory-1Last year Washington State’s Attorney General sued Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts on the basis of consumer protection. Florist Barronelle Stutzman had refused to sell flowers to a long time customer when the arrangements were to be used for a same-sex marriage ceremony.

Although Stutzman did not have any qualms about serving serving gay customers, she “didn’t want to be involved in a same-sex marriage.” “I just put my hands on his and told [the customer who made the request] because of my relationship with Jesus Christ I couldn’t do that, couldn’t do his wedding,” Stutzman said in a deposition.

A Benton County Superior Court judge ruled that the law trumped her rights of conscience. “Religious motivation does not excuse compliance with the law,” said Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom in his 60-page opinion.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced last Thursday that he would accept $2,000 in penalties, $1 in fees and costs, plus an agreement not to discriminate in the future and to end further litigation.

Stutzman responded to the attorney general in a letter, the text of which is posted below:

Attorney General Bob Ferguson
1125 Washington St. SE
P.O. Box 40100
Olympia, WA 98504

Re: State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers and Barronelle Stutzman

Dear Mr. Ferguson,

Thank you for reaching out and making an offer to settle your case against me.

As you may imagine, it has been mentally and emotionally exhausting to be at the center of this controversy for nearly two years. I never imagined that using my God-given talents and abilities, and doing what I love to do for over three decades, would become illegal. Our state would be a better place if we respected each other’s differences, and our leaders protected the freedom to have those differences. Since 2012, same-sex couples all over the state have been free to act on their beliefs about marriage, but because I follow the Bible’s teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, I am no longer free to act on my beliefs.

Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. 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. Washington’s constitution guarantees us “freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.” I cannot sell that precious freedom. You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.

I pray that you reconsider your position. I kindly served Rob for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend. I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and I will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case. You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating, and having a home. If you are serious about clarifying the law, then I urge you to drop your claims against my home, business, and other assets and pursue the legal claims through the appeal process. Thanks again for writing and I hope you will consider my offer.

Sincerely,

Barronelle Stutzman

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

Comments

  • Norman Dostal

    Im afraid the answer is no. This woman is a bigot and even though she excuses her bigotry with “My God done tol me” we, as a society, have decided that it is not acceptable. Religion is essentially made up and every belief varies from person to person (38,000 branches of Christianity alone!!!). We simply must keep religion out of law. So, this woman will be used as an example. May God forgive her bigotry.

    • So if your “society” decides to gas Christians as the Germans did the Jews, I guess you think that would be all right. By your definition, not mine, the woman may be a bigot, but being a bigot should not be illegal.

      • He completely ignores the fact that there’s an entirely secular argument one could make regarding the freedom of association, regardless of whether you consider her reasons ‘bigotry’ or not.

  • Alan Black

    If she goes under, it’s her own stupidity. These people are idiots.

  • Marcy Fleming

    She has every right to choose her customers. Dostal, there is no such entity as ‘society’ and statist thugs have no right their prejudices on anyone else.

    • Robert Riversong

      There is no such thing as a private business without society’s legal structures and protections, as well as the public infrastructure that makes commerce possible.

      • I hear an echo. “Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

        • Robert Riversong

          Yes, it’s the echo of Thomas Paine, the philosophical instigator of the American Revolution, who wrote that all private wealth was due to the expropriation of the commons and hence owes a debt to We The People.

          It’s as American as apple pie.

  • Kristin

    Rob knew he could easily find a hundred florists who could’t care less whom he was marrying. So what is it about Rob that makes him want to poke his finger in the eye of a friend who he knows is a Christian? Rob wanted to make an example of his friend: “Don’t mess with gays or we will destroy you.”
    I deeply admire Ms. Stutzman.
    “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

  • Mo86

    This is so very sad.

    Tell me again about how same-sex “marriage” doesn’t hurt anyone?

    I am so SICK of these Christophobic, homosexual bullies! They will not stop until they destroy EVERYONE who will not bow to them!

    I just wish they’d at least be honest and ADMIT that’s what they are doing, instead of painting it as some issue of “civil rights”. It’s this business owner’s civil rights that are being destroyed here – along with her livelihood and her entire life!

    • Robert Riversong

      Tell us again how theocratic Christianiaty doesn’t hurt anyone?

      I am so SICK of these Christian, homophobic bullies! They will not stop until they force ALL of society to bow down to their extreme and unfounded bias.

      I just wish they’d at least be honest and ADMIT that’s what they’re doing, instead of painting it as some issue of “civil rights”. It’s the civil rights of homosexuals that are being attacked here – along with their legal right to marry whom they love.

  • Mo86

    Where is my comment? Someone else can call us “idiots” and say it’s “stupidity” but I’m not allowed to speak up when I’m on your side?

    Are you kidding me?

    • No joke: This is a moderated blog. All comments are reviewed. Please be patient.

  • This is a religious freedom issue, but it’s also a property rights one. With the legalization of homosexual marriage business owners have lost more of the rights to their property. With all of the limitations on property usage why would anyone consider that they still have property and this a free market nation?