Washington Supreme Court Rules Against Christian Florist—Again

The Washington state Supreme Court has again ruled against Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington.

In 2013, Stutzman, an evangelical Christian and 74-year-old grandmother, declined to make a custom floral arrangement to celebrate a gay couple’s wedding because it conflicted with her religious beliefs.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)—Stutzman’s legal representation—the couple never filed a formal complaint about her. Rather, the Washington State attorney general read about the interaction on social media and decided to file a lawsuit against Stutzman, both in her professional and personal capacity.

In February 2017, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against Stutzman for the first time, stating that she had violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and requiring her to pay thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees. Stutzman has served gay customers and employed gay people for decades, her lawyers said.

Stutzman appealed that ruling, and in June 2018, her case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court vacated the Washington court’s 2017 decision and sent the case back to the lower court for further consideration in light of the high court’s 7-2 ruling in favor of Colorado Christian baker Jack Phillips. Phillips was accused of violating Colorado’s discrimination law for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

ADF contends that the Washington Supreme Court ignored precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court when deciding to stand by its initial ruling of Stutzman’s case.

“Barronelle serves all customers; she simply declines to celebrate or participate in sacred events that violate her deeply held beliefs,” John Bursch, ADF vice president of appellate advocacy, said in a statement. “Despite that, the state of Washington has been openly hostile toward Barronelle’s religious beliefs about marriage, and now the Washington Supreme Court has given the state a pass.”

On June 9, Franklin Graham asked his Twitter followers to hold Stutzman up in prayer:  “Baronelle should have the freedom not to participate in something she feels is wrong. She’s a wonderful lady and I greatly appreciate her quiet yet firm stand for her religious beliefs. Will you pray for Baronelle and her case?”

Following the court’s most recent decision, Stutzman revealed her intention to appeal the decision. “No artist or creative professional should be forced by the government to create custom work that conflicts with her deeply held beliefs,” she said. “That’s why I will appeal my case to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

A decision as the whether the justices will hear the case will come during the Supreme Court’s next term, which begins in October. If chosen, arguments will most likely follow in 2020.

Photo: Greg Lehman/Genesis Photos