Florist to SCOTUS: Forget Me Not
It was shaping up to be a great week. Barronelle Stutzman just got the news that she’d won the Readers’ Choice Award for Best Florist in the Tri-City Herald. But the prize she really wanted was something people couldn’t vote on: her vindication in a six-year case over same-sex marriage.
When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop, no one was more thrilled than the owner of Arlene’s Flowers. She, Aaron and Melissa Klein, and other wedding vendors who’d been sued for their religious beliefs had all become friends — members of a club none of them chose to join. But as happy as they were for Jack, they were also disappointed that the justices didn’t take the opportunity to decide the issue for all of them.
In June of last year, there was at least a hopeful sign for Arlene’s Flowers. The justices threw out a lower court’s ruling and sent Barronelle’s case back to the Washington Supreme Court for “further consideration” in light of Jack’s ruling. Her attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom celebrated. After all, they were getting a chance most people don’t: a second crack at exonerating the beloved shop owner, whose home, assets, and livelihood are all on the line.
Unfortunately for everyone, the activist judges on her home state’s highest court have no interest in ruling fairly. Instead, they doubled down on their decision, announcing Thursday that “the answer to the Supreme Court’s question is no; the adjudicatory bodies that considered this case did not act with religious animus when they ruled that the florist and her corporation violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination … by declining to sell wedding flowers to a gay couple.” And, the court went on, “they did not act with religious animus when they ruled that such discrimination is not privileged or excused by the United States Constitution or the Washington Constitution.”
All nine members of the court insisted that they had “painstakingly reviewed the record” for signs of “intolerance.” “After this review, we are confident that the two courts gave full and fair consideration to this dispute and avoided animus toward religion. We therefore find no reason to change our original decision in light of Masterpiece Cakeshop.”
The ruling was a disappointment, ADF explained, but not a surprise. After all, the court had ignored Barronelle’s basic freedoms the first time. So, ADF insists, they will fight on. “The hostility my state has shown me because of my faith is undeniable,” Barronelle told reporters, “and I am confident the U.S. Supreme Court will see that viewpoint.” For SCOTUS, who’s been doing its best not to answer the fundamental question on wedding vendors, it looks like Arlene’s Flowers is back. As more cases keep bubbling up — from cakes to planners and florists to venues — the justices won’t be able to take a pass forever, like abortion, they will have to address the mess they’ve made with their judicial activism in redefining marriage.
In fact, Ryan Everson encourages, conservatives should be happy with Washington’s outcome, because it tees up another opportunity for the Supreme Court to set “a broad precedent” on the First Amendment freedom of religion. And this time, he points out, they’ll have better justices to decide it. “Remember, Anthony Kennedy wrote both the Obergefell and Masterpiece decisions. Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment, if anything, seems likely to permit a broader reading of the Masterpiece Cakeshop victory.” Then, of course, there’s Neil Gorsuch, who — he points out — wrote the lower court opinion on Hobby Lobby. “In other words, liberals won the battle today. But in doing so, they may have set themselves up to lose the war next year.”
*Originally published here
Wisc. Science Teacher Experiments with Gender
“I had no advanced warning.” Those are the words every parent despises when it comes to controversial lessons in the classroom. And nothing can be more controversial than a K-5th grade teacher “coming out” as another gender to children.
For Wisconsin parents, the idea that Allis Elementary School science teacher Mark Vincent Busenbark would sit his classes down and show 5 and 6 year old children a video where he’s dressed like a woman is astonishing. There’s something he tells them that he’s hidden from them, his fellow teachers, and his family. “I am a transgender.” He acknowledges that some kids may not know what that means. “Maybe you’ve only heard [the word "transgender” through the] filter of those who hate and fear.“
Then he picks up a transgender children’s book and explains that the character starts as a girl, but then changes into who she’s supposed to be become. "I started as a boy, and I hope to grow into who I am going to become,” he says. At the end, he reintroduces himself, “… I am going to take my wife Stella Steel’s last name, and I am going to use, not mister, and not miss, but ‘mix. So you can call me, 'Mix Steel’ … And for my pronouns, I’m using ‘they,’ ‘them,’ and ‘their.’”
When their children got home that night, moms and dads across the district were horrified. “I’ve had to sit down with my kids and explain that what they heard is flat-out wrong and incorrect,” one mom said. “We will be kind to others, but we WILL NOT be involved in adult games of make-believe. Shame on those that support this!” According to Fox News, “another parent reportedly confronted the school about the issue but said school officials brushed it off.”
Well, they’ll have a hard time brushing off a legal challenge, which is what may be coming next. Liberty Counsel has already sent a records request to the school district to find out what other LGBT activism has been promoted in the classroom. Meanwhile, the accounts from parents are jaw-dropping. In an interview airing today, I had the chance to talk to one of those dads on “Washington Watch.” He didn’t even know about Busenbark’s new identity until he was reading through the latest school news. “We get a lot of messages,” he told me. “I’m seeing, they [have] a fun run event coming up. There’s a teacher coming out as transgender. There’s a math assignment next week – and I thought to myself, ‘Wait a minute, what in the world did I just read?’”
“It wasn’t a notification to parents that there was an individual that had made that decision at the school. There was a notification that they had created the video and sat down with K-5 and already talked to kids about this teacher coming out… I had not seen the video at that point… And again, it was an after the fact. ‘We’d like to let you know that we spoke to your kids today about such and such.’ And so it was really kind of a shocking thing that left me with a lot of questions immediately and [made me] quite disturbed.”
He explains that he has a sixth-grade son — much older than the child in Mr. Busenbark’s class — and he hasn’t even had a talk about gender identity with him! “I honestly could never have imagined having had to do that.” And it’s not that he expects the public schools to teach what the Bible teaches. But these are first graders, he says. They’re very impressionable. And the message he’s sent to all of his kids — four boys — has always been “respect your teachers… They have your best interests in mind. Well, not now. And it’s very difficult to explain to a six-year-old… that there are exceptions now.”
The school itself, the dad explains, is in Madison — which is a predominately liberal area. So he was surprised, when he posted something on Facebook, how much support he got. “I received so many individuals that were commenting, ‘Someone needs to bring this up,’ ‘Somebody needs to file a suit against the school,’ ‘Someone needs to file suit against the state.’” Essentially, the message from everyone was: this needs to be stopped.
We cannot, this father told moms and dads listening across the country, “sit back and accept the status quo. I would encourage parents [who] are out there that have strong feelings about this to band together — maybe find each other. I know that that might be difficult to do, but you know, again, there are great organizations out there — several of them that are a resource for those who don’t feel like they have a voice on their own.” Silence is not an option.
For more information on what you can do, check out our pamphlet, “A Parent’s Guide to the Transgender Movement in Education.”
*Originally published here
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is President of FRC.