June 25, 2018
There are only a handful of days left on the U.S. Supreme Court's calendar, and when it comes to religious freedom, the justices are making every one of them count. After delivering a huge win for Masterpiece Cakes owner Jack Phillips earlier this month, America's highest court is hinting that it's not done with Christian wedding vendors yet.
Like Aaron and Melissa Klein, and every other baker, florist, and photographer tied up in litigation over a same-sex wedding client, Barronelle Stutzman was thrilled for Jack when his verdict came down. But, with the narrow scope of the ruling, they also longed for the day when they, too, would be free to exercise their faith. Today, the Supreme Court inched at least one of those cases -- Arlene's Flowers -- closer to that goal.
In a hopeful sign, the justices threw out a lower court's ruling and sent Barronelle's case back to the Washington Supreme Court to consider in light of the Phillips's case. Thanks to this move, Stutzman and her attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) will have a second crack at vindicating the longtime florist, whose home, assets, and livelihood are all on the line.
ADF's Kristen Waggoner, who represented Jack before the Supreme Court, thinks the two cases have a lot in common -- especially when it comes to animus. "No one should be bullied or banished from the marketplace for living out her or his beliefs about God and marriage. But it takes a special kind of focused hostility to target this woman, to relentlessly pursue her business and personal assets, all for the purpose of making an example of her. Yet that's exactly what the State of Washington is doing."
"...Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson got involved. He was so eager to file a lawsuit against Barronelle that he did so without receiving a legal complaint from Rob or Curt, and he bypassed the state agency charged with enforcing the state's nondiscrimination law. He then handpicked Barronelle to make an example of her, even suing her in her personal capacity to frighten her and anyone who dared to live out those same beliefs about marriage..."
"Like Jack Phillips, Barronelle serves all people. Like Jack, Barronelle can't celebrate all events or express all messages. Like Jack, Barronelle has been the target of government hostility. And like Jack -- and all Americans -- Barronelle deserves the protection of the First Amendment."
Our hope and prayer is that the lower court that ruled against Barronelle's religious freedom will acknowledge their error and restore her freedom to live out her deeply held convictions in her own business. As we've said so many times before, constitutional freedoms don't stop at the door of your church -- they extend to every area of life. It's time the Washington State Supreme Court acknowledges that fact.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.