Penalizing Religious Belief: No Bed of Roses
Andrew T. Walker /
A Washington state florist is facing a lawsuit by the state’s attorney general because she desires to conduct her business in accord with the principles of her faith.
Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts, is being sued by the state of Washington for refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding ceremony.
She reportedly declined to arrange flowers for the wedding on the grounds that her “relationship with Jesus Christ” forbids her or her business from providing flowers for same-sex wedding ceremonies.
A news source explains that Stutzman has many gay customers to whom she sells flowers. But the issue of marriage is an altogether different consideration for Stutzman.
J. D. Bristol, Stutzman’s attorney, noted, “This is about gay marriage, it’s not about a person being gay. She has a conscientious objection to homosexual marriage, not homosexuality. It violates her conscience.”
The state is reportedly seeking fines against Stutzman of $2,000 along with a court injunction forcing her to comply with a state consumer protection law, which makes it unlawful to discriminate against customers based on their sexual orientation.
Washington’s anti-discrimination law, coupled with the state’s recent passage of a law recognizing same-sex marriage, is putting religious liberty to the test.
As Heritage has repeatedly warned, the interaction of same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws is resulting in evitable clashes with religious liberty, turning “culture wars” into “conscience wars.”
The case against Stutzman follows the case against a New Mexico photographer who was hauled before a state human rights commission and forced to pay more than $6,600 for declining to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.
In both of these instances, government is using anti-discrimination laws to force people to choose between obeying their faith and obeying government policy.
Our first freedom of religious liberty shouldn’t take a backseat to anti-discrimination policy.
Bristol remarked that “this is a freedom-of-expression and free-exercise-of-religion issue.… What the government is saying here is that you don’t have the right to free religious exercise.”