Florist Wonders if There’s Still Room for Christian Businesses in America
As one Christian business falls another fights on against what its owner sees as an infringement on religious liberties, and some wonder if there is still room for Christian beliefs in America.
The attorney general of Arkansas and her colleagues in 12 other states, along with several organizations, have made it clear where they stand in an amicus brief.
Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash., started this when she declined to create a floral arrangement for the same-sex wedding ceremony of a friend and longtime customer, Rob Ingersoll.
The Washington State Attorney General’s Office and the ACLU took matters into their own hands in the dispute among friends and filed suit, alleging Stutzman had violated the state and federal civil rights of Ingersoll and his partner.
If Ingersoll had asked for flowers for his partner’s birthday or some other event, Stutzman said she would have been only too happy to serve him. But Ingersoll wanted her to create a floral arrangement for his same-sex wedding.
That’s where Stutzman drew her line in the sand.
In a commentary for the Seattle Times titled, “Why a friend is suing me: the Arlene’s Flower story,” Stutzman explained that for her as a Christian, weddings have a special significance.
“This case is not about refusing service on the basis of sexual orientation or dislike for another person who is preciously created in God’s image,” Stutzman wrote. “I sold flowers to Rob for years. I helped him find someone else to design his wedding arrangements. I count him as a friend.”
Stutzman added that she hoped the state of Washington “would be as willing to honor my right to make those kind of choices as it is to honor Rob’s right to make his.”
A judge was not willing to be as accommodating as Stutzman hoped.
She was ordered to pay penalties and attorneys’ fees.
“It’s no accident that Judge Ekstrom’s ruling so closely mirrors our arguments, and we look forward to the decision on the remaining motions,” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “We believe Washington law is very clear that businesses in Washington cannot discriminate. If you serve opposite-sex partners, you must serve same-sex partners equally.”
The case is now in hands of the state of Washington’s Supreme Court.
Attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom are serving as Stutzman’s legal counsel.