Culture Beat / June 10, 2019

WA Supreme Court Rules Against Religious Liberty

The florist will appeal her First Amendment case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Washington Supreme Court last week upheld its previous ruling in the case of a florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. The court had originally ruled against Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, finding that she had violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws. Following the ruling last year, Stutzman appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the justices declined to hear the case, directing the Washington Supreme Court to review the case to determine if the state’s ruling was motivated by “religious animus.” The justices pointed to their own ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

It’s hard to see how the Washington court determined that there was no “religious animus” behind the state’s citation of Stutzman, as she clearly did attempt to comply with the homosexual couple’s request without at the same time violating her own religious convictions. Stutzman offered to sell the couple any pre-arranged floral bouquets they wished, while objecting to having to create art (speech) specifically for their wedding.

Meanwhile, The Daily Caller reports, “While state prosecutors sued Stutzman personally — an aggressive step that makes her personally liable for fines and damages — they did not take action against a coffeehouse owner who profanely expelled a group of Christians from his business. [Alliance Defending Freedom] argues this enforcement pattern is the kind of discrimination the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling condemns.”

Again, just last year in a 7-2 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state of Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission had acted with anti-religious hostility when it cited Christian baker Jack Phillips for violating the state’s anti-discrimination laws after he refused to bake a custom wedding cake for a same-sex wedding. The Supreme Court’s ruling did not address the larger issue — the question over the constitutionality of these state anti-discrimination laws — but rather ruled narrowly on the state of Colorado’s biased application of the law. As National Review’s David French put it, the Court “punted on the core First Amendment question at issue: Can the government compel a creative professional to exercise his artistic talents to advance a message with which he disagrees?”

Stutzman, who is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, plans to appeal once again to the U.S. Supreme Court. ADF Vice President John Bursch explained, “Barronelle serves all customers; she simply declines to celebrate or participate in sacred events that violate her deeply held beliefs. Despite that, the state of Washington has been openly hostile toward Barronelle’s religious beliefs about marriage, and now the Washington Supreme Court has given the state a pass. We look forward to taking Barronelle’s case back to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

This is indeed a case the U.S. Supreme Court needs to take up and rule on definitively, not dodge the main issue like it did in Phillips’s case.

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