RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WIN: SCOTUS Invalidates Ruling Against Christian Florist

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On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that a Washington state court would have to reconsider its ruling against a florist who served a gay couple for over ten years but would not do their wedding flowers. The Supreme Court’s decision was catalyzed by their ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case in which they ruled for Colorado baker Jack Phillips.

The Court stated vis-à-vis Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, “The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the Supreme Court of Washington for further consideration in light of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Comm'n."

The Arlene’s Flowers case revolved around whether the creation and sale of custom floral arrangements to celebrate a wedding ceremony was considered artistic expression, and if it was, whether compelling the florist to create a wedding cake that violated her religious beliefs violated the free speech clause and the free exercise clause. The case was brought after Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington state florist, refused to provide original flower arrangements to a same-sex couple for their wedding after having served one of the men for roughly ten years. The state courts rejected her argument that requiring her to design floral arrangements for same-sex weddings would violate her First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of her religion; that triggered Stutzman to ask the Supreme Court to review the state courts’ decision.

Stutzman’s appeal was put on hold by the court until they ruled on the Masterpiece decision. Stutzman had been fined by the state courts and ordered to provide the same services to same-sex couples that she provides to opposite-sex couples.

Stutzman was defended by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the conservative Christian nonprofit that defended Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. ADF senior counsel Kristen Waggoner had stated, "Like Colorado, the state of Washington has shown hostility toward Barronelle Stutzman’s religious beliefs about marriage. For example, the state sued Barronelle not just in her business capacity, but also in her personal capacity. That threatens to take away everything she owns and has ever worked for."

As ADF noted:

After hearing about Barronelle’s decision in the news, the Washington State attorney general decided to take matters into his own hands, and sued her. The ACLU followed close behind. … Alliance Defending Freedom asked the court to dismiss the attorney general’s lawsuit since he was not personally involved in the incident, and filed a countersuit against him. They also asked the court to protect Barronelle from personal attacks from the ACLU and the state, and restrict the lawsuits to her business, Arlene’s Flowers. The court ruled against Barronelle and ordered her to pay penalties and attorneys’ fees.

ADF petitioned the Washington Supreme Court to take up Barronelle’s case, and, in March 2016, the court agreed. Oral arguments were heard on November 15, 2016 at Bellevue College. In February 2017, the Washington Supreme Court concluded that the government can force her—and, by extension, other Washingtonians—to create artistic expression and participate in events with which they disagree.

In July 2017, ADF petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Barronelle's case.

Stutzman had told the Christian Broadcast Network, “You have to make a stand somewhere in your life on what you believe and what you don't believe. It was just a time I had to take a stand."

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