Barronelle Stutzman, a 74-year-old great-grandmother and owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, is a living, breathing, First Amendment trooper. Declining to create a one-of-a-kind floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding in 2013 because of her faith, she was targeted by her state’s Attorney General and the ACLU with lawsuits designed to ruin her business and bankrupt her. She’s been denied relief twice now in her own state courts. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated (removed) the first judgment against her and sent her case back to the Washington state courts for reconsideration following its Masterpiece Cakeshop decision concerning the religious freedom of wedding vendors. The parallels of religious hostility by state governments in both cases are undeniable. Her state courts had the opportunity to right a grievous wrong simply by following the Supreme Court’s reasoning in the wedding baker decision.
In 2019, however, during the second time around, the Washington state courts refused to heed the lessons of Masterpiece Cakeshop and once again decided against Stutzman.
She has now filed her second request with the nation’s highest court to hear her appeal.
“This case is an ideal opportunity for the U.S. Supreme Court to reaffirm that the First Amendment protects people who continue to believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” ADF Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch said in a statement posted on ADF’s website. “Particularly at a time when society is becoming more confrontational and less civil, it is critical that the courts honor the rights of citizens to speak and act freely, including those who strive to live consistently with their faith.”
In addition to the religious hostility shown by the Washington Attorney General, Stutzman’s appeal also involves a First Amendment free speech issue. She objects to her state government compelling her to speak favorably—through her artistic creations—about issues such as same-sex marriage that are contrary to her faith.
This is the same issue the Arizona Supreme Court recently decided in favor of the owners of a graphic design business. The two young Christian entrepreneurs in that case were facing jail time and exorbitant fines for declining to create custom wedding invitations for same-sex weddings.
Now the U.S. Supreme Court has the opportunity to address this speech issue head-on in Stutzman’s situation, with national implications. It has already taken a dim view of government-compelled speech in its 2018 NIFLA v Becerra decision. Please pray the nation’s high court will accept Stutzman’s appeal and grant her justice.
The case is titled Arlene’s Flowers, Inc. v. State of Washington.