Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Washington State Hates Your (Religious) Freedom

In case you haven’t been following the sad case of Washington State Florist Barronelle Stutzman, the facts are pretty simple: when long time customers to whom she had sold flowers for other occasions asked her to provide the floral decorations for their gay “wedding,” she explained that her deeply held Baptist religious views would not let her do so--because marriage is between a man and a woman.

The gay couple, her long-time customers, decided to sue her like most nice, kind, long-time customers would the minute they didn’t get their own way about something (not).  And Washington State has ruled against her in a breathtakingly bad decision:
RICHLAND — A florist who refused to provide flowers to a gay couple for their wedding violated state consumer-protection and anti-discrimination law, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom rejected arguments from the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland that her actions were protected by her freedoms of speech and religion. While religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, actions based on those beliefs aren’t necessarily protected, he said. [...]
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which represented the couple, welcomed the ruling.
“The law is clear: If you choose to provide a service to couples of the opposite sex, you must provide the same service to same-sex couples,” Ferguson said.
The law allows for penalties of up to $2,000 per violation, as well as legal fees.
The state will likely seek those against Stutzman individually, as well as her business, said Peter Lavallee, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office
To sum up: a Christian may not practice her Christianity when it interferes with a gay couple’s right to demand floral arrangements for what many Christians see as an evil mockery of marriage.  And the State will punish a Christian for practicing her faith in her place of business--which she OWNS--by confiscating “penalties” not only from that business but from her personally as well.

Christians, you see, don’t have the right to own flower shops unless they will kneel at the altar of Ba’al to pour out floral libations in celebration of the wickedness of gay “marriage.”  The state has the right to force them to do so.

The National Organization for Marriage’s blog has more details about this outrageous case.  The Alliance Defending Freedom website contains links to the whole outrageous decision, in which the court ruled that freedom of religion means that believers are free to have beliefs, but not necessarily free to express them in public or act on them.  Chillingly, the court cited the New Mexico decision in Elane Photography LLC vs. Willock in their decision--if a photographer can be forced to photograph a gay “wedding” despite her Christian beliefs that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman, the Washington Court said, then this creates the precedent that forces all religious believers to participate in gay “weddings” whenever they are asked to do so.

Or, as Mark Shea has been putting it for years: Tolerance is not enough.  You MUST approve.

If you are a Catholic, a Christian, an observant orthodox Jewish person, a Muslim, or anyone else whose religion teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and you happen to own or work at a place which provides goods and services for weddings, there is only one thing you can do: Get. Out. NOW.

I hate to shout, but the bars are closing in, and if you don’t restructure your business today in such a way that you no longer provide any goods or services for weddings, you will be forced in the very near future to cater or photograph or provide flowers or bridal gowns/tuxes or other wedding-related items to gay couples.  Trust me--they will seek out your business on purpose to destroy it if they have any suspicion that you might be a religious believer who doesn’t believe in gay “marriage.” 

The courts keep ruling against religious freedom.  In the name of tolerance and inclusion they are helping move our culture to a place that is completely intolerant of religious faith and completely ready to exclude all of us from the market place, unless we’re prepared to sell out our religious freedom and kowtow to the illusion that two men or two women are, in any way that we understand it in the light of our religious faiths, “married."  The court in Washington is prepared to punish Mrs. Stutzman if she doesn’t accept their “settlement offer,” a fine of just over $2000 and a promise that from now on she will serve all the gay “weddings” she’s asked to serve as a florist.  Mrs. Stutzman, may God bless her, is standing firm, prepared to lose her business and all her personal assets as well rather than participate in something she truly believes is wrong in the eyes of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  She does not stand alone, but maybe it will take a million florists and a million bakers and a million photographers saying to all of their customers, “I’m sorry, but the one kind of event I won’t provide my services to are weddings of any kind, because America no longer allows me the freedom to practice my faith in regards to weddings or marriages--in fact, according to this great nation I am an evil bigot who must be silenced and punished for my deeply held belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman.” 


Pat said...

If my deeply held religious beliefs include that infertile octogenarians can't marry each other, that such a "marriage" is a farce, and invalid and a wicked, evil aping of true marriage between young fertile people, can i discriminate against them, or should existing anti age-discrimination laws apply to me? Isn't the WA case remarkably similar?

Red Cardigan said...

Pat, if your deeply held religious beliefs held any such thing, then your beliefs on marriage should trump the age-discrimination laws. Now, if you categorically refuse to sell any flowers at all to old people it’s a different story.

Besides, since you probably can’t name a single religion which believes that infertile octogenarians can’t marry each other, if the octogenarians were informed that by the Church of Pat the Florist that it’s wicked for old people to marry they would have every right to think you totally nuts and go elsewhere for their flowers. Why should they sue you? Such a lonely religion should be humored, not taken seriously.

Deirdre Mundy said...

The other thing is-- if you actually want your flowers from a florist who doesn't believe in gay marriage, there's an easy workaround.

"Hey Mary, we need some flower arrangements for Saturday. 20 of those centerpieces for round tables, Baby blue and Pink, please. Also, 15 corsages, 15 boutteniers, one large arrangement like the one you did for Aunt Martha's funeral, only with baby blue and pink..... Yeah, we'll pick them up Friday Night. Thanks!"

Totally no need to involve her in your wedding UNLESS you want to pick a fight.

John InEastTX said...

"If you are a Catholic, a Christian, an observant orthodox Jewish person, a Muslim, or anyone else whose religion teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and you happen to own or work at a place which provides goods and services for weddings, there is only one thing you can do: Get. Out. NOW."

Or they could just take the attitude that providing flowers and cakes does not imply moral approval or cooperation.

I suspect there are a fair number of folks in the categories in your above quote who do just that.

Pat said...

Your view, that a business should be able to so discriminate against infertile octogenarians, is inconsistent with our laws and public policies in the same way that Stutzman's views are.

Red Cardigan said...

Your view, Pat, that not entering a contract to provide flowers for an octogenarian’s wedding automatically constitutes discrimination is inconsistent with common sense.

Red Cardigan said...

Besides that, religious freedom is one of our constitutionally guaranteed rights. It does NOT mean, “Freedom to pray in private but not to refuse to participate in things you believe are immoral.”

John, if a Christian decides that it’s no big deal and not inconsistent to his/her faith to supply flowers for gay “weddings,” KKK meetings, neo-Nazi conferences, NAMBLA gatherings, etc., that is his or her prerogative. But if another Christian decides that his or her faith does not permit him or her to sell those services to those groups, I think he or she should have the right to say “No,” when asked to do so.

If people want to treat all florists like grocery store flower sections, and all photographers like those old mall photo-boxes, and all caterers like fast-food sandwich delivery, then pretty soon that’s all they’ll be able to get, as people with consciences move away from being forced by the government to provide personalized services to things they find deeply offensive. NAMBLA and the white supremacists (and litigious gay couples) may win, but the rest of us lose.

Red Cardigan said...

Weird. My own comment posted twice. Anybody else having commenting issues lately?

Pat said...

Maybe I didn't understand you, but a florist who refuses to provide flowers to Wedding A, and who bases that refusal on the advanced age of the marital couple, is indeed practicing age discrimination in violation of the law. Isn't he?

L. said...

There are some fringe Christians who are against interracial dating relationships. Somehow, if one of these extremists were to become a florist, I don't think anyone would like it if he refused to provide flowers to an interracial wedding on religious grounds.
Practice your religion all you want -- no one should be "silenced." Maybe this florist & others can figure out a way to get their businesses declared religious services and get the exemption they want. But if you have a business serving the general public, this means you don't get to pick & choose who "general public" includes.

Pat said...

Red, Your comment at 4:13 is a misstatement of state law. If I refuse to provide flowers to a wedding based on the fact the couple are octogenarians then I have absolutely violated anti-age-discrimination laws.

Red Cardigan said...

Pat, I’m not unduly concerned about state law, because in some situations federal law trumps state law, and freedom of religion is a constitutionally protected law.

If a religion taught as an established and known tenet of its faith that elderly people could not marry and that it was sinful for them to do so, I think that forcing a member of that religion to celebrate an elderly couple’s wedding would be constitutionally very iffy.

Like I said, there’s no such religion that I know of. But many, many religions teach that all gay sex is sinful and that gay “marriage” is nothing but an attempt to confer some sort of legitimacy on an inherently sinful partnership. SCOTUS has not yet ruled that people belonging to those religions must be forced to celebrate gay “weddings” anyway. It should be interesting if/when they rule on such questions, because I think a lot of state laws are suddenly going to be trumped by religious liberty concerns.

Let’s face it: so far no gay couple has demanded wedding cake or flowers or photos from a *Muslim* owned company. That would be a real test case for religious liberty, wouldn’t it?

freddy said...

Owner: "Hello, welcome to My Flower Shop. What can I help you with today?"
Tim & Ted: "We're getting married! And you did such a great job on our friends Polly and Mike's wedding we just had to stop in!"
Owner: I see. Okay, but before we sit down and look at the wedding book, you need to know a few things. You see, my religion teaches me that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. Selling you flowers seems to me to be forcing me to condone something I believe is wrong. Now of course, by law I have to sell you flowers for your "wedding" if you choose. However, I will need you to sign a form stating that you understand that 100% of the cost of your flowers will be donated to a charity that supports my beliefs. It might be a group that supports traditional marriage, or an outreach to gender-confused young people that uses conversion or reparative therapy. The donation will naturally be in your name and you will receive a thank you from the organization I choose. If you agree to that I think we can proceed.
Tim & Ted: "Um...we'll get back to you, okay?"
Owner: "Here's my card!"