Baronelle Stutzman, florist and grandmother
On Friday we witnessed a travesty of justice and an attack on the 1st Amendment to the US constitution enshrining religious freedom and the freedom of conscience, speech and press.
In a 9-0 decision, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled against the 72-year-old grandmother and florist, Barronelle Stutzman, for refusing to make a floral arrangement to celebrate the “wedding” of a homosexual couple. The two men were her friends for whom she made floral arrangements for years. But her religious convictions would not allow her to celebrate their marriage by providing flowers. We have written about this here.
Stutzman was sued by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. When Ferguson offered to settle her case for “$2,000 in penalties, $1 in fees and costs, plus an agreement not to discriminate in the future and to end further litigation,” Stutzman refused, stating to do so would violate her conscience.
Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It’s about freedom, not money. I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important. Washington’s constitution guarantees us ‘freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.’ I cannot sell that precious freedom. You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.
I pray that you reconsider your position. I kindly served Rob for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend. I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and I will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case. You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating, and having a home. If you are serious about clarifying the law, then I urge you to drop your claims against my home, business, and other assets and pursue the legal claims through the appeal process.
Stutzman speaks with such clarity of purpose and compassion despite the threat of losing her business, her home, and her life’s savings. She has found the tender balance between manifesting love and compromising where she is able, and speaking the truth with a spine of steel where she must.
Our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom have taken on the Stutzman case.
Shortly after the court’s announcement, Stutzman announced she would be appealing the case to the US Supreme Court.
One of the main questions we face now is will the church stand with Stutzman for the fundamental principle of freedom of religion and conscience, or will she lie asleep as the principles upon which this nation was founded are abandoned. Have we begun a long goodbye to President Abraham Lincoln’s stirring words, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”?
Some Christians might object, “She should have made flowers for the gay wedding. That would have been the loving thing to do.” But that suggestion assumes a false dichotomy. Sometimes “No” is the only loving response:
- “Mom, I’m bored; can I play out in the street?”
- “Doctor, I’m depressed; would you administer a barbiturate so I can end it all?”
- “Baronelle, I’m going to pretend that two men can become one flesh in God’s sight. Will you help me celebrate?”
This video should lay to rest any question about Ms. Stutzman’s attitude toward homosexuals.
Besides that, the “loving thing to do” argument reduces Ms. Stutzman’s moral convictions to personal preferences. This courageous woman is resting on clear biblical grounds. Os Guiness puts it like this in his recent book, Impossible People:
The greatest scholars of our age, liberal and not only conservative, along with the united voices of the greatest scholars of all the ages, have shown beyond all reasonable doubt that the Bible is plainly opposed to homosexual behavior, just as it is to all heterosexual sexual behavior outside of marriage—and they are confirmed in their conclusion by the majority of homosexual scholars themselves. Yet our brave new Christians trust in their own brilliant reinterpretations and serve their own interests without a qualm. 110
Others might object to Stutzman along the lines, “So what if she or other Christians face a bit of persecution. We’re not facing anything like the persecution of Christians overseas, so what are we whining about? A little persecution will be good for the church in America.” (Of course that’s much easier to affirm when it’s someone else being persecuted.) And we heard the “little persecution” argument during the marijuana debate. A little persecution now leads to a more persecution later. The reader is no doubt familiar with the famous reflection of Martin Niemöller (1892–1984), the “prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.”
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
It’s naïve to dismiss the gravity of this moment in Western history. Rod Dreher spells it out.
This is important for traditional Christians. It might be more important than you think it is. The ACLU, most of the media, the legal establishment, the Democratic Party — they all hate us. I mean, hate us. If Barronelle Stutzman were a Muslim, we never would have heard of this story. She is a Southern Baptist, therefore she must be destroyed. …
This will never end. It will never, ever end. Best get that learned now. This case is going all the way to the US Supreme Court, which will either refuse to hear it (in which case the Washington court’s ruling stands), or it will hear it and render a judgment. I would not bet money on that judgment going in Stutzman’s favor.
So, we have to fight where and how we can, but we also have to realize that we will probably lose. What then? If we have any courage at all, we are not going to compromise our consciences. What will we do? How will we pay the debts inflicted on us by our persecutors? How will we work again? How do you get along in a society in which the people who hold the greatest power think you are Public Enemy No. 1?
… Like I keep saying: this may not be the end of the world, but it is the end of a world. When the might of the State of Washington and the American Civil Liberties Union comes down on the head of gentle, grandmotherly, small-town florist, and seeks her ruin for declining to arrange flowers for a gay wedding, you know that we are dealing with a bottomless well of hatred. You know exactly what we are dealing with here. So, prepare. We are all going to be asked to pay the cost of discipleship. When I interviewed her last summer, Stutzman said to me: “If they can come after me, they can go after anybody.”
True. Expect no justice, tolerance, mercy, or love in these matters. The Religious Right Must Lose.
For more on this question and the Stutzman case read Michael Brown’s piece, Shame on the Silent Christian Leaders Who Refuse to Stand Against Government Tyranny. I want to join him in calling Christ-followers to immediate action. There is still time to reverse the fundamentalist atheists’ tide.
- Read the articles listed below.
- Share this material with others. Spread the word.
- “Make a statement about this gross injustice however you can (on social media; to your family; from your pulpit – I’m urging every pastor reading this column to say something to your flock the next opportunity you have)”;
- Ask President Trump to sign the religious freedom executive order. (Call the White House at 202-456-1111 to leave a comment, or 202-456-1414 to talk to someone.)
- Go here to stand with Barronnelle and her team.
- Ask God to awaken the Church in America.
- Darrow Miller and Gary Brumbelow
Other excellent resources on this news story:
Crushing Barronelle So #LoveWins™ by Rod Dreher