Christians are rallying and spreading the love, stepping up with financial assistance to their brethren burned by the militant same-sex marriage movement.
As WND reported, more than $842,000 poured in last week for a Pizzeria in Indiana forced to close by threats of violence from LGBT supporters.
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Another small business owner, this time a florist in Richland, Washington, found herself singled out for refusing to provide service for a same-sex wedding in 2013. She refused and was hit last week with $1,001 in fines and court costs from the state. She still faces a lawsuit from the customer.
Barronelle Stutzman, sole owner of Arlene's Flowers, could lose her business, home and retirement savings if she loses the suit. A GoFundMe account started by a friend on Feb. 23 sat almost completely idle for weeks but has come alive with donations over the past few days.
Stutzman, a 70-year-old grandmother and devout Christian who has run a flower shop for 40 years, refused to make flower arrangements for the wedding of a longtime customer and found herself on the receiving end of two lawsuits – one from the Washington state attorney general's office and another from the two men planning a same-sex wedding ceremony. They are not only suing her business; they're also going after her personal assets, according to her attorney.
Her GoFundMe account jumped to $85,000 on Easter Sunday and surpassed $115,000 Monday. By Tuesday morning it passed $123,000.
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And the judge ruling in the case has opened her savings, personal possessions and even home up as a target for the homosexuals who are claiming her personal assets as damages, according to court documents.
Watch Barronelle Stutzman tell her story:
But the Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Stutzman warned that the precedent – not the dollar figure – is the problem.
Kristen Waggoner, ADF senior counsel, said the award to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson boils down to a government threat to Christians: "Surrender your religious liberty and free speech rights, or face personal and professional ruin."
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Stutzman was sued even though the man who filed the complaint was referred to several other willing florists and even was offered free flowers.
One of the homosexual customers, Robert Ingersoll, told the Tri-City Herald that Stutzman’s decision thoroughly shocked the couple.
"It really hurt because it was somebody I knew," Ingersoll said. "We laid awake all night. It was eating at our souls. There was never a question she'd be the one to do our flowers. She does amazing work."
Judge Alex Ekstrom's latest order also said the "defendants and their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and those persons in active concert or participation with them … are permanently enjoined and restrained from violating the Washington Law Against Discrimination."
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Ekstrom also said the homosexual customers "are entitled to an award of actual damages," but he reserved determination of the amount until after any appeal has been exhausted.
Indiana case puts dilemma on map
The case of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, put the issue of LGBT bullying of wedding service providers on the map. The Indiana Religious Freedom Act hit the news last week and the story went viral about Memories Pizza being forced to close due to threats of robbery and arson from pro-LGBT forces. The owners of that pizzeria were inundated with hateful messages and negative reviews on social media even as donations poured in on GoFundMe, raising a total of $842,592 in less than four days. Owners Crystal and Kevin O'Connor have said they hope to reopen their pizza shop. As of Monday evening, it remained closed, and the phone went unanswered.
The negative comments continue to show up on Memories Pizza's Facebook page.
"The 'charity' of Christians here in the U.S. This absolutely sickens me," wrote one commenter.
"It becomes all too clear just how warped religious dogma can make the human mind when we see a nation who will proudly fund and defend bigotry, while ignoring a dying child," said another commenter on the Memories Pizza Facebook page, comparing its fundraising exploits to that of another GoFundMe page that has raised $15,420 to date.
Stutzman has likewise been pelted on social media.
"All GLBTQ people and their allies need to boycott this shop and shut it down. This homophobic idiot needs to learn there is such a thing as freedom from religious persecution too. Stop using your god as a weapon. Get up here in the new millenium (sic) with the rest of us," commented John McCluskey on Google Reviews.
But those messages have been countered by letters of support from around the world, as far away as India, she said in a video on the GoFundMe site.
Stutzman said she has, for her entire 40-year career, employed and served people who identify themselves as "gay."
But a few months after same-sex marriage became legal in Washington state, a longtime customer named Rob Ingersoll asked her to do the flower arrangements for his wedding ceremony to another man.
"It was a real struggle to decide what to do with that. My husband and I talked it over and, as much as I love Rob, I just couldn't, couldn't be a part of that," Stutzman said in a video presentation of her situation. "If I did Rob's wedding, it would be from my heart because I think he's a really special person, and I would want to make it really special for him. It wasn't something I flippantly said, 'Oh I'm not going to do Rob's wedding because he's gay.' When I talked to Rob, I did not think this would be something that would be a major issue. I was very surprised by that."
After observing the story on social media, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Stutzman and Arlene's Flowers.
Waggoner, the ADF attorney, said the Washington attorney general's action in this case is unprecedented.
"We have never had an attorney general take the position that this attorney general has taken. And now the ACLU has piled on, and the same-sex couple has sued her as well," the attorney said. "And interestingly, they have sued her in her personal capacity as well as her business, so she is at great risk. As a result of serving someone, lovingly and admittedly in a kind way for nine years and because you won't do one same-sex wedding, you're going to lose your house or your business. And she's been working in this business for 40 years."
Hate mail to turn your stomach
The story was distorted in the media. Stutzman's flower shop shop was flooded with insults, threats and offensive comments on social media sites such as Yelp, Google Reviews, Facebook, Dexknows.com, FlowerShopNetwork.com and Yellowbot.com.
"I've read a lot of hate mail over the years, but what I've read in this case just is stunning. It makes you sick to your stomach," Waggoner said. "Just volumes after volumes, thousands of pages."
"People are filled with hate and refuse to even listen to what the real story is," Stutzman said. "It's just so sad."
"This is about marriage. It's not about bigotry. She knew of their relationship. She provided flowers that they sent to each other. But when it came to marriage, that was the line, because, as she'll tell you, marriage represents the relationship of Christ and His church. It's a sacred, a very sacred thing," Waggoner said.
"This case in particular is coercing someone to engage in expression, and that's against America's tradition, and it's unconstitutional. It's also unnecessary. There are lots of florists. If you look in the tri cities area, there are like three pages in the yellow pages that could have served this couple. They've even admitted that after they received enough offers for free arrangements to do 20 different weddings. But yet, what's being set up here is that's not good enough. It's not good enough that there are other florists. We have to coerce everyone to do what we want them to do, even if it violates their religious convictions."
She ends the video the way she started it, reading letters from supporters.
Besides the Memories Pizza in Indiana and Arlene's Flowers in Washington, here's a list of cases in which Christians have been accused of violating non-discrimination laws for following the dictates of their faith:
The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association was begun in 1869 to provide a place for Christian meetings and assemblies, and it still operates as one of the more popular destinations for such events on the East Coast.
It houses one of the world's 20 largest pipe organs and there are both traditional and contemporary worship programs all summer long that have featured speakers such as Billy Graham, Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, Billy Sunday, D. James Kennedy and Charles Stanley.
But the location no longer is used for weddings, because a lesbian duo was denied permission to use it, and a state discrimination complaint was filed.
The ACLU reported in 2012 that the ruling from an administrative law judge found the Christian group was guilty of discrimination for refusing to grant Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster access to its property for their ceremony.
Solomon A. Metzger of the state's Office of Administrative Law found that in March 2007, when Paster and Bernstein filled out a reservation form, the pavilion was a public accommodation. The judge determined that the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association breached its agreement to make the pavilion available to the public on an equal basis.
The owners of a Christian farm in upstate New York recently were fined $10,000 and assessed $1,500 in damages for not allowing a lesbian duo to use their land and home for a wedding.
Cynthia and Robert Gifford, owners of Liberty Ridge Farm near Albany, had allowed others to use their land for birthday events and a few weddings. But when Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin asked for access, the owners said they would allow a reception but not a wedding, because of their religious beliefs.
The state said the couple's religious beliefs were of no account.
Administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares said the Giffords' home is a place of public accommodation and, therefore, is subject to the New York human rights law.
The judge ruled, "The fact that the Giffords also reside at Gifford Barn does not render it private."
The case developed when homosexuals demanded a Christian baker provide a wedding cake for their event, and he declined on the grounds it would violate his Christian faith.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission eventually ordered the baker, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to use his artistry to celebrate homosexual unions in violation of his Christian beliefs, but the case is on appeal in the courts.
A state commissioner, Diann Rice, likened Christians to slaver owners and Nazis.
Her words: "I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust, whether it be – I mean, we – we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to – to use their religion to hurt others."
Hear a recording of Rice's statement:
There was no claim in the case that the homosexuals were unable to get a cake, only that they were unable to get it from Masterpiece.
The city is demanding the Christian ministers at the chapel perform same-sex weddings in violation of their faith, and WND reported recently the case is headed back to court after negotiations between the parties failed.
"The government can't tell ministers they must perform same-sex marriages under threat of jail time and crippling fines," said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco.
"That's exactly what the city did to Pastor Knapp and what the ordinance allows the city to do to others. In the absence of a settlement agreement, we look forward to vindicating our client's freedom in court."
The Benham brothers were en route to a new HGTV television show when homosexual activists made an issue of their belief in biblical marriage.
The network canceled their real-estate show, which was to be called "Flip it Forward."
Jason and David, who just weeks ago began writing an exclusive WND column, posted on Facebook a video supporting the Indiana law:
The video explains: "So the RFRA is a shield, not a sword. It doesn't get offensive and promote 'hate' as the hype said. But it's a shield to protect companies, like, for instance, a Jewish-owned jewelry. It keeps the state from forcing him to create rings with the Nazi symbol on it. Or a Muslim-owned apparel company. It prevents the state from forcing him to maybe make T-shirts with the cross over the crescent.
"Or even a gay-owned apparel company from creating T-shirts that say Leviticus 18:22. Homosexuality is a sin."
Very simply, "the state should never force business owners to promote a message or an idea that conflicts with their beliefs," David Benham states.
In a New Mexico dispute, courts ordered that a photographer could not refuse to use her talents to memorialize a homosexual wedding.
Elaine Huguenin, co-owner with her husband, Jonathan, of Elane Photography, had declined to provide her artistic talents to Vanessa Willock.
Willock, who found another photographer for the event, filed a complaint with the state under its anti-discrimination law. The state Supreme Court said the photographer had no right to not be forced to express statements through her work that violated her Christian beliefs.
Giving up one's religious faith, the court said, was "the price of citizenship."
An Oregon baker also was caught in the same fight, as well as several other venue owners, and there's even the same conflict in the United Kingdom.
He was attacked by homosexual activists and eventually lost his position for donating $1,000 to support the 2008 Proposition 8 marriage-definition initiative that was approved by the majority of voters of progressive California.
According to WND CEO Joseph Farah's commentary on the issue, "Apparently, according to this new litmus test of the 'tolerance' police, anyone who supported the popular proposition no longer deserves to work in California."
Aloha Bed & Breakfast
The Aloha Bed & Breakfast in Hawaii, a Christian business, was forced to "accommodate" two Southern California lesbians after a judge ruled the B&B violated state law when the owner told Taeko Bufford and Diane Cervelli she wasn’t comfortable having them stay together in her home due to her religious beliefs. Aloha has since been ordered by the state "to provide a room to any same-sex couple that wishes to stay there."
In Illinois, Christian B&B owners Jim and Beth Walder are being sued by homosexual activist Todd Wathen, who demands monetary damages, attorneys' fees and "an order directing [the Walders] to cease and desist from any violation" of the state’s Human Rights Act.
Vermont’s Wildflower Inn paid a settlement and shut down its wedding reception business after the ACLU won a $10,000 civil penalty for two lesbians. The settlement also requires the inn's owners to place $20,000 in a charitable trust for the lesbians.
Oregon's "Sweet Cakes by Melissa" bakery shut down after declining to bake for a "gay wedding."
The owners of Indiana's "Just Cookies" were charged with "discrimination" under the city’s "sexual orientation" law for refusing to fill a special order for "rainbow cookies" for an LGBT group.
Iowa's "Victoria’s Cake Cottage," whose owner, Victoria Childress, refused to provide a wedding cake for a homosexual couple out of "convictions for their lifestyle."
Oregon’s Fleur Cakes joined Sweet Cakes in refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and is being boycotted by homosexual activist groups.
Texas' All Occasion Party Place, a Fort Worth venue, refuses, on religious grounds, to rent out a banquet hall for same-sex wedding receptions.
A Christian T-shirt maker in Kentucky was targeted by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission for refusing to print "gay pride" designs for a local homosexual group.
Chris Penner, owner of the Twilight Room Annex bar in Portland, was fined $400,000 under the Oregon Equality Act for excluding transsexual men who, dressed as women, had been alienating other customers by using the women’s restroom. According to the Seattle Times, 11 people – calling themselves the "T-girls" – "will get the money, with awards ranging from $20,000 to 50,000."
Other same-sex "marriage" coverage: