Florist's Case Stems From Intolerance
Barronelle Stutzman may be a small-town florist, but she’s planting plenty of national doubts about religious liberty. While liberal designers are celebrated for refusing to dress the First Lady, Christians continue to be hauled to court for asking for those same rights. Yesterday, that hypocrisy was on full display in the Washington State Supreme Court, which ruled that the state should be able to rob you of your home, life savings, and anything else of value just because you hold a different political view than the people in power. In a unanimous decision, the justices found the grandmother and 40-year veteran of the floral industry guilty of discrimination for daring to do what the First Amendment protects: living out her faith at work.
As the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, it didn’t matter to Washington State that Barronelle had served homosexuals — or even employed them. The court and state attorney general believe Stutzman should be forced to celebrate their values, even if it offends her religious beliefs. When longtime customer Robert Ingersoll stopped by the shop to make arrangements for his upcoming same-sex wedding, Barronelle had politely declined. Although she’d happily sold arrangements to the man for a decade, she explained that she objected to participating in a ceremony that violates her faith.
Since I never hid my faith, I always figured Rob understood that my beliefs shape not only how I look at the world but how I envision and create my art — the art he appreciated for so long. So it wasn’t that I wouldn’t create something to celebrate his same-sex wedding — I couldn’t. This wasn’t about selling him flowers, or celebrating a birthday. This involved what, to me, is an event of unique spiritual significance — a sacred covenant. Art, like faith, comes from the heart, from who I am. I couldn’t deny my faith — even for so dear a friend — without damaging the very creativity he was asking for.
Robert said he respected her opinion, the two hugged, and parted ways. To Stutzman’s surprise, they were reunited by an interesting source: the Washington State Attorney General, who filed a rare, private citizen lawsuit against Barronelle. “I was never offered a settlement,” Stutzman explained. “I was offered an ultimatum: ‘Either you will do as I tell you to do; you will think the way I think; you will perform the way I think you should perform and create. And if you don’t, I’m going to destroy you.’”
After yesterday’s decision, the fixture of the Richland community was stunned. “I’m not asking for anything that our Constitution hasn’t promised me and every other American: the right to create freely, and to live out my faith without fear of government punishment or interference.” Americans like Barronelle were told repeatedly that redefining marriage wouldn’t impact their lives. Now, two years into this social experiment forced on the country by the courts, families are being driven from their businesses — and today, their homes — for wanting the same tolerance the Left preaches. Barronelle’s attorney, Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF) Kristen Waggoner, was blown away by the injustice.
In a free America, people with differing beliefs must have room to coexist. Our nation has a long history of protecting the right to dissent, but simply because Barronelle disagrees with the state about marriage, the government and ACLU have put at risk everything she owns… It’s no wonder that so many people are rightly calling on President Trump to sign an executive order to protect our religious freedom to prevent the federal government from persecuting Christians the way rogue state actors in states like Washington are doing. Because that freedom is clearly at risk for Barronelle and so many other Americans, and because no executive order can fix all of the threats to that freedom, we will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this case and reverse this grave injustice.
ADF hopes, as we do, that the U.S. Supreme Court will see what its Washington counterpart did not: that the real victims of discrimination are Christians with sincerely held beliefs. Americans of all backgrounds have suffered the loss of their religious liberties because of Obama-era policies. The time to protect our First Freedom is now.
Originally published here.
Black to Basics: House Rep. Fights for States' Rights
Liberals say they believe in “choice” — they just don’t want states to have one! President Obama made that abundantly clear in December when he decided to give Cecile Richards’s group one heck of a parting gift. With one foot out the door, the abortion industry’s best pal used his last few moments in power to ban states from defunding groups like Planned Parenthood. The rule, which became official two days before the inauguration, was a final slap in the face to leaders across the country, who have always had the ability to decide where and how their tax dollars are spent.
That overreach stops now, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) told Congress. Last month, she introduced a resolution of disapproval that would stop the rule in its tracks. “It’s not the role of politicians in Washington to usurp the states' 10th Amendment rights and [swap] our judgment for that of state and local leaders,” she said at the hearing Tuesday. “We must return to a point where states are empowered to make their own healthcare decisions — based on the unique needs of their constituency — without fear of reprisal from the federal government.”
Like most conservatives, she’s outraged that President Obama would substitute his own judgment for local officials'. “As members of this committee may know … states have always had the freedom and flexibility to dole out those grants to providers of their choice… Now, under this eleventh-hour Obama administration rule — finalized after President Trump was elected and made enforceable just two days before he took office — Tennessee has lost that right.” Members of the House Rules Committee sympathized and moved to restore those rights by passing the resolution to the floor by a 7-4 party-line vote.
Yesterday, the House cleared the first big hurdle, sending Black’s bill to the Senate 230-188 (with Democrats Dan Lipinski, Ill., and Collin Peterson, Minn., siding with Republicans). As an added bonus, The Hill points out, the resolution can’t be filibustered in the upper chamber because it’s “being moved through a law that allows Congress to rescind recently finalized rules.” Naturally, liberals like Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) are hyperventilating at the thought of states (the majority of which are under Republican control) directing their dollars to community health centers whose idea of “comprehensive care” doesn’t include abortion. At one point, Slaughter even tried to inject gender equality into the mix, arguing, “For more than 40 years, men in blue suits have been trying to determine what women can and should do when it comes to their own health.”
That’s interesting, since the House resolution is sponsored by a woman. Also, it might interest the New Yorker to know that in the latest national poll, a whopping 83 percent of women support banning the funding of abortion internationally. Nationwide, 77 percent of them want to limit abortion to the first trimester — that is, as RealClearPolitics points out, slightly higher than the national average! Another 59 percent say abortion is “morally wrong.”
Obviously, Slaughter’s party — and the extremists at Planned Parenthood — don’t speak for women! Nor do they speak the truth, as pictures from last weekend’s protests showed. In them, young girls were holding signs that said things like, “Don’t take away my breast cancer screenings!” Well, first of all, Congress can’t take away something Planned Parenthood never offered. That the organization offers mammograms is a myth, as even Richards was forced to admit. The only “breast exams” they do are the basic tests a woman can do herself. Other cancer screenings are on a serious decline, as FRC points out in our Planned Parenthood Fact Sheet. “Despite the 63 percent decrease in screening services, Planned Parenthood continues to tout its screening efforts as a major part of their public advertising.”
Community health centers, on the other hand, where a majority of state dollars are flowing, provided almost a half-million mammograms last year! And unlike Planned Parenthood, they weren’t being referred for criminal prosecution by Congress or performing abortions at the same time! “We should invest in women’s health, not abortion. Abortion is not healthcare,” Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) said in this week’s hearing. “The federal government should not incentivize the practice by undermining the authority of states.” He’s right. It’s time for Washington to respect states that respect life.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.