The State of Washington’s Supreme Court yesterday ruled against Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, who came under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington Attorney General for politely declining to use her artistic skills for a gay wedding ceremony. The state’s highest court upheld a decision that Stutzman must pay severe penalties even though she referred her long-time customer, a friend, to other florists who would not have a conflict of conscience.
Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of National Religious Broadcasters, called this ruling “shocking.”
“In the Land of the Free, government agents should not be given judicial cover to so coerce speech or compel citizens to participate in events contrary to the principles of their faith,” he said.
Stutzman, represented in court by NRB member Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), has indicated her intent to appeal this ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her attorney, ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner, declared that the issue here was “about crushing dissent” and stated, “We will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this case and reverse this grave injustice.”
This high-profile state level ruling comes in the midst of a likely battle to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court seat left empty by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, as well as ongoing deliberations in the White House and on Capitol Hill about possible measures to proactively uphold religious liberty, the nation’s first freedom enshrined in the Bill of Rights. This lawsuit also comes on the heels of the high court sadly choosing last summer not to hear another case out of the State of Washington — Stormans v. Wiesman — which had challenged pharmacy rules tailored by the state to discriminate against those with religious objections to abortion. NRB then agreed with dissenting Justice Samuel Alito that “this case is an ominous sign.”
Responding to yesterday’s ruling, Johnson added, “I pray the U.S. Supreme Court will take up this case and right this wrong. I also urge President Trump and Congress to take definitive action by executive order and legislation to prevent such encroachments against First Amendment liberties at the federal level.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: February 17, 2017