‘Small-town florist’ warns: ‘Gay’ art mandate threatens ‘everyone’

By Bob Unruh


Don’t kid yourself: The government that gives itself the authority to order a “small-town florist” to advocate a message that violates her faith isn’t going to be satisfied with controlling one “small-town florist.”

That’s the warning from Washington state entrepreneur Barronelle Stutzman as the state Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in her discrimination case on Tuesday.

She was penalized by the state for declining to promote a homosexual wedding through her floral artistry.

The state Supreme Court last winter agreed to hear the case in a terse note signed by Barbara Madsen, the chief justice.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending Stutzman in court, explained a lower court ordered her to pay penalties and attorneys’ fees “for declining to use her artistic abilities to design custom floral arrangements for a longtime customer’s same-sex ceremony.”

The lower courts ruled that not only was Stutzman liable as a business operator, but her personal assets and property also were at risk.

Stutzman had referred the customer, Rob Ingersoll, to several other florists who would provide him with quality products and services.

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“Does anyone really believe that a government that gives itself the power to force people to believe (and not believe) things and can order artists to create state-sanctioned messages will only use that power to bend one small-town florist to its will – and then leave everyone else alone?” she wrote in a recent commentary in Spokane’s Spokesman-Review newspaper.

“What our state Supreme Court will decide is whether the government has the power to separate my creativity from my soul – by compelling me to create artistic expressions that celebrate something that goes against my conscience.

“To enforce that separation, they’ll have to violate my constitutional rights to free expression and free exercise of religion. Doing that imposes an unrealistic expectation on what customers can expect from creative professionals … and, in this case, what a friend can ask of a friend,” she said.

“Rob Ingersoll and I have been friends since very nearly the first time he walked into my shop. I always thought that must be because Rob ‘gets it’ – what it means to be a particular kind of artist, working to create beautiful messages through flowers and the talents God has given me. All those years, he always asked for me, when he could easily have gone somewhere else for his arrangements. There was never an issue with his being gay (nor has there been with any of my other customers or employees). He just enjoyed my arrangements, and I loved creating them for him.

“Since I never hid my faith, I always figured Rob understood that my beliefs shape not only how I look at the world, but how I envision and create my art – the art he appreciated for so long. So it wasn’t that I wouldn’t create something to celebrate his same-sex wedding – I couldn’t. This wasn’t about selling him flowers, or celebrating a birthday. This involved what, to me, is an event of unique spiritual significance – a sacred covenant. Art, like faith, comes from the heart, from who I am. I couldn’t deny my faith – even for so dear a friend – without damaging the very creativity he was asking for.”

She said the case reveals the state’s intention “to force me to create artistic expressions that violate my deepest beliefs.”

“It’s moving to dissolve my most precious freedom, erode my life’s work and savings and take away the financial security of those who work with me.”

She pointed out that what she’s seeking is only what the Constitution provides.

The Obama administration has been forcing religious believers to violate their beliefs to accommodate “nondiscrimination” laws that give special privileges to homosexuals and transgendered persons.

WND reported in September a federal commission has proposed codifying the discrimination.

Obama even has characterized the Constitution’s protections for “freedom of religion” as the seemingly innocuous “freedom of worship.”

But Rafael Cruz, the father of one-time GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, has warned that Cuba, even at its most repressive, claimed to allow “freedom of worship.”

The author of the book “A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America” contends such an interpretation of the Constitution would be devastating for America.

“Most Christians don’t realize the danger of freedom of worship,” Rafael Cruz said in an interview on “Hagee Hotline” with pastor Matthew Hagee. “Freedom of worship is not the same as freedom of religion. Every communist country around the world has freedom of worship. What freedom of worship means is you can worship inside a house of worship.”

And Hillary Clinton went on record insisting that to protect “gay” rights, “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases must be changed.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights pointedly moved in her direction, even lamenting that the Constitution limits governmental burdens on religion.

The agency’s recent report, “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties,” gets immediately to the point.

Religion ‘infringes’ on civil rights

In the first of 306 pages, the “letter of transmittal” to Barack Obama states, “Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights.”

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It says the fault lies with the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which “constricts the ability of government actors to curtail private citizens’ rights to the protections of nondiscrimination laws and policies.”

“Although the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act … limit the ability of government actors to impede individuals from practicing their religious beliefs, religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws and policies must be weighed carefully and defined narrowly on a fact-specific basis,” states the letter.

The letter, based on hundreds of pages of arguments compiled for the past three years, says the commission believes “overly-broad religious exemptions unduly burden nondiscrimination laws and policies.”

“Federal and state courts, lawmakers, and policy-makers at every level must tailor religious exceptions to civil liberties and civil rights protections as narrowly as applicable law requires.”

The commission says RFRA “protects only religious practitioners; First Amendment free exercise rights, and it does not limit others’ freedom from government-imposed religious limitations under the Establishment Clause.”

“In the absence of controlling authority to the contrary such as a state-level, RFRA-type statute, the recognition of religious exemptions to nondiscrimination laws and policies should be made pursuant to the holdings of Employment Division v. Smith, which protect religious beliefs rather than conduct.”

Then the commission gets to what it really wants, stating federal legislation “should be considered to clarify that RFRA creates First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights only for individuals and religious institutions and only to the extent that they do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights protections against status-based discrimination.”

“States with RFRA-style laws should amend those statutes to clarify that RFRA creates First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights only for individuals and religious institutions. States with laws modeled after RFRA must guarantee that those statutes do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights with status-based discrimination.”

‘War on religious freedom’

The nonprofit legal group Liberty Counsel called the commission’s recommendations “a shocking example of the war against religious freedom in America.”

“The commission’s report is a shameful anti-American and anti-God document that trashes religious freedom,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Staver charged that the commission’s chairman, Democrat Martin Castro, is “out of touch with reality and with our Constitution.”

“He and the other members of the commission who agree with him want to throw out the First Amendment and trash religious freedom whenever faith and practice collides with an intolerant LGBT agenda,” Staver said. “The report is a declaration of war against religious freedom. George Washington said anyone who works against the twin pillars of religion and morality cannot be called a ‘Patriot.’ This report is un-American.”

In the Stutzman case, ADF explained, “The case boils down to this question: Is there room in our tolerant, diverse, and freedom-loving society for people with different views about the nature of marriage to establish their ‘religious (or nonreligious) self-definition in the political, civic, and economic life of our larger community…?’ The trial court’s and [the state’s and the ACLU’s] answer is ‘no….’ This is contrary to the best of our historical and constitutional traditions, which mandate that citizens who hold non-majoritarian views be given room to express them and not be coerced, punished, and marginalized through force of law.

“The trial court’s and [the state’s and the ACLU’s] view – that there can never be a free speech exception to public accommodation laws – endangers everyone,” the brief continued. “If correct, then the consciences of all citizens are fair game for the government. No longer could a gay print shop owner decline to print shirts adorned with messages promoting marriage between one man and one woman for a religious rally. Nor could an atheist painter decline to paint a mural celebrating the resurrection of Christ for a church. Indeed, no speaker could exercise esthetic or moral judgments about what projects to take on where a customer claims the decision infringes on his or her rights under the WLAD [Washington Law Against Discrimination].”

ADF’s logic is being challenged by no less than Barack Obama.

He said at the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Gala in New York that the Constitution’s protections for “gay” rights trump the protection for religious rights.

“We affirm that we cherish our religious freedom and are profoundly respectful of religious traditions,” he said. “But we also have to say clearly that our religious freedom doesn’t grant us the freedom to deny our fellow Americans their constitutional rights.”

See WND’s Big List of Christian Coercion about this very topic.


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