Right Opinion

Judge Nips Florist's Freedom in the Bud

Tony Perkins · Feb. 20, 2015

How will same-sex “marriage” affect your home? A lot, if you don’t have one to come home to. That’s the stunning predicament Barronelle Stutzman finds herself in after a judge found the Christian florist guilty late [Wednesday]. The popular grandmother, who’s been a fixture in her Washington community for 37 years, knows the cost of conviction – and if the state gets its way, she’ll be paying it.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom has officially made Stutzman’s house, assets, and life savings fair game in the fierce debate over religious liberty. In a lengthy 60-page opinion, the court argues that Barronelle’s “relationship with Jesus Christ” doesn’t give her the freedom to turn down business – even if that business violates her personal beliefs.

“Religious motivation does not excuse compliance with the law,” Ekstrom wrote in his decision about the 2013 store flap. When long-time customers approached Arlene’s Flowers about making centerpieces for their same-sex “wedding,” Barronelle politely declined. But here’s the catch. Stutzman didn’t deny the men flowers, as the media wrongly suggests, but arrangements – which would have required Barronelle to use her personal artistry to express what she believes is a sinful message.

Despite that compromise, she was hauled in front of a court by – not just the couple, but the State’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, who, in a highly unusual step, went after the grandmother personally. Wednesday, Judge Ekstrom ruled in favor of both cases, dealing a huge blow to Stutzman, who stands to lose everything for exercising the very right our forefathers came to America for.

As far as the court is concerned, there is a “direct and insoluable conflict between Stuzman’s religiously-motivated conduct and the laws of the state of Washington.” In the clash between religious liberty or same-sex “marriage,” something has to give. And that “something,” this court says, is freedom. It’s a sobering indication of where this country is headed, said ADF attorney Kristen Waggoner.

“The message of these rulings is unmistakable: the government will bring about your personal and professional ruin if you don’t help celebrate same-sex marriage… You put your home, your family business, and your life savings at risk by daring to defy a government mandate that forces you to promote views you believe are wrong.” As for Barronelle, who had already launched a counter-suit against Washington State, her request is simple: “I just want the freedom to live and work faithfully and according to what God says about marriage without fear of punishment. Others have the freedom to say or not what they want to about marriage, and that’s all I’m asking for as well.”

If you think Barronelle’s situation is an isolated one, think again. On the same day that Arlene lost her case, tech giant Apple was outed for firing an Alabama lobbyist who had supported natural marriage when he was a state legislator! Like FRC’s Craig James, who never mentioned his views on the job, Jay Love got the boot for voicing his opinion years earlier as a state legislator.

A local Alabama newspaper smoked Love out in a hit piece that no doubt went straight to Apple CEO (and open homosexual) Tim Cook’s desk. “While it isn’t unusual rhetoric from Republicans and even many Democrats running for office, especially in conservative states like Alabama,” reporters blogged, “it does seem slightly unusual he was hired as a lobbyist by Apple, unless of course, Apple didn’t know of his past stance on the subject of same-sex ‘marriage.’”

Love’s contract was terminated the same day. So this is tolerance? The kind that says the biggest publicly-traded company in the world can fire someone for their views – but a small business doesn’t have the right to turn down a morally objectionable job? This new Brendan Eich lost his livelihood through the same politics of fear, intimidation, and oppression. Who knows how many will be next if America doesn’t wake up?

White House Lost on Kony Island

Turns out, the White House will use the word “Christian” in the current ISIS debate – but only to insult. The same administration that painstakingly avoided Christianity in describing the terrorists’ targets had no problem invoking the faith inappropriately.

As if the President’s “crusades” reference at the National Prayer Breakfast weren’t insulting enough, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf invoked a member of the “Lord’s Resistance Army” in a desperate attempt to prove that there are threats beyond Islam. “If you look at the Lord’s Resistance Army and Kony, Joseph Kony – I don’t remember people talking about that as much anymore, but that’s a Christian militant group. So there are a lot of different extremist threats we face, and there are different tools we have to go after each one of them.” Of course, the problem is that Joseph Kony is the farthest thing from a true follower of Christ there is.

A former altar boy, he “proclaims himself the spokesperson of God and a spirit medium, and … claims he is visited by a multinational host of 13 spirits.” He says these spirits order him to commit acts of murder, rape, abuse, and kidnapping. Obviously, the administration is so anxious to avoid insulting Islam that it distorts Christianity to somehow help diminish the religious motivations of the Islamists. Unfortunately for Harf and the rest of the President’s team, all it accomplishes is exposing how anti-Christian this administration is.

Conservatives Still Whalen on Ginsburg

“A judge sworn to decide impartially can offer no forecasts, no hints…it would display disdain for the entire judicial process.” Believe it or not, those are the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – the very Justice who is guilty of doing exactly that on marriage. Two months before the Supreme Court is set to hear its first arguments on the constitutionality of state marriage amendments, Justice Ginsburg’s interview with Bloomberg left little doubt what her “forecast” is for the case.

“The change in people’s attitudes on that issue has been enormous,” she told reporters this month. “In recent years, people have said this is the way I am. And others looked around, and we discovered it’s our next door neighbor, we’re very fond of them…. So I think it would not take – it would not take a large adjustment.” Her comments exploded across social media, where people on both sides were surprised with the partiality she showed toward redefining marriage. And while calls for her recusal increase, NRO’s Ed Whelan points out that the idea isn’t a radical one.

“This is exactly the situation Justice Scalia faced a dozen years ago in the wake of his public comments criticizing a Ninth Circuit ruling against the Pledge of Allegiance. As Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick wrote at the time, Scalia was ‘intellectually honest enough to know that he slipped,’ and he thus ‘recused himself from what would have been one of the most important church-state cases of his career.’ His recusal meant that ‘the court may well split 4-4 on the case, in which case the 9th Circuit’s decision will stand, for all the states in its jurisdiction.’ (In the end, the remaining eight justices all voted to reverse the Ninth Circuit, five on grounds of lack of standing and three on the merits.)” Is Justice Ginsburg principled enough to do the same? We’ll see.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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