News and Commentary

Washington Supreme Court Rules Against Florist Who Refused Same-Sex Wedding

Religious freedom suffered another setback this week when the Washington Supreme Court ruled on Thursday against a Christian florist who refused to service a same-sex wedding on religious grounds.

According to Fox News, the court ruled that Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, “violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) for refusing to make floral arrangements for a gay couple in 2013.” Similar to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, Stutzman did not wish to make a custom arrangement for the wedding, which would have required her to lend her artistic creativity to an event that violated her religious beliefs. She did, however, offer to sell the couple whatever pre-made floral arrangement they wished.

In the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the U.S. Supreme Court only ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission acted with animus towards baker Jack Phillips’ religious beliefs.

“The Commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion,” the 2018 ruling said. “Phillips was entitled to a neutral decisionmaker who would give full and fair consideration to his religious objection as he sought to assert it in all of the circumstances in which this case was presented, considered, and decided….The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the court.”

Essentially, the Washington Supreme ruled that the “adjudicatory bodies” treated Stutzman and Arlene’s Flowers with no such animus.

“The adjudicatory bodies that considered this case did not act with religious animus when they ruled that the florist and her corporation violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination … by declining to sell wedding flowers to a gay couple,” the Washington Supreme Court’s ruling said, “and they did not act with religious animus when they ruled that such discrimination is not privileged or excused by the United States Constitution or the Washington Constitution.”

The ruling went on to say that the Washinton Supreme Court “painstakingly reviewed the record for any sign of intolerance on behalf of this court or the Benton County Superior Court, the two adjudicatory bodies to consider this case,” concluding that they “are confident that the two courts gave full and fair consideration to this dispute and avoided animus toward religion.”

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court kicked the Arlene’s Flowers case back to Washington, demanding that the state not make the same mistake that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission did with Masterpiece Cakeshop. Indeed, multiple conservative commentators at the time lamented that SCOTUS made far too narrow of a ruling that would eventually lead to more religious persecution. Here’s what The Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro said at the time of the ruling:

Presumably, if the Colorado commission had said nicely to Phillips, “Dear sir, we understand your honestly-felt moral quandary, but feel that times have moved beyond such discrimination, and thus your religious objections must take a back seat to civility,” they could tell him to do whatever they damn well pleased.

The fact that we have arrived at this point in Constitutional jurisprudence in the first place is an utter joke. You don’t have the freedom to speak, so long as the government labels your speech public accommodation; you don’t have the freedom to associate; you don’t have freedom of religion so long as the government speaks nicely while taking it away from you.

Of course, the Supreme Court ruled on Masterpiece Cakeshop prior to Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the bench, so it theoretically possible that Stutzman’s case could provide a definitive ruling on whether or not religious Americans can be compelled to participate in events that violate their beliefs, depending on if the higher court chooses to hear her case.

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