SCOTUS decision: Arlene’s Flowers

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 26th of June, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court sent a Christian floral artist back to the Washington state Supreme Court to reconsider her case.

That, in light of the recent high court ruling in which seven justices found overt hostility toward religion by Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission. Those commissioners violated cake baker Jack Phillips’ civil rights after he declined on religious grounds to create custom cake art for a same-sex ceremony.

REICHARD: 73-year-old florist Barronelle Stutzman said she is happy for another chance to stand up for religious freedom, even though the personal costs are immense:  

STUTZMAN: …You know if the state of Washington has its way, I am at risk of losing everything. Not just my flower shop that is my livelihood, but my home and everything we own … the state of Washington has targeted me for over five years. And I find that I am here today because my attorney general is hostile to my religious beliefs.

Stutzman ran her successful small business for decades and employed several gay people along the way. She served the same-sex couple in this case directly for a decade without any problems. It was only when that couple requested she create custom floral designs for their same-sex wedding that she explained why she could not do so. And that was based on her religious belief that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman.  

Barronelle Stutzman’s attorney, Kristen Waggoner with Alliance Defending Freedom, noted the ongoing hardship her client endures. That includes having to stop doing custom wedding arrangements, a large part of her business.

WAGGONER: …The risk of penalty is so high in terms of the attorney’s fees and the fact that people want to set up these claims, even when they’re not legitimate. She will need to wait until this issue is once and for all resolved.

Unlike the civil rights commission who violated the cake baker’s rights, Stutzman has been pursued for five years by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the ACLU. Now, the state Supreme Court has 30 days to decide the case itself under guidance from the ruling in Masterpiece Cake Shop, or remand it to a lower state court.

In May, a California judge ruled that a Christian baker was within her rights to decline creating custom cake art celebrating an event that violated her conscience.

Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe ruled that baker Cathy Miller’s free-speech rights under the First Amendment outweigh any state interest in ensuring a freely accessible marketplace. He distinguished between selling products such as tires and that of artistic expression involved in custom art. In this case, Miller’s lawyers seek to recoup more than $400,000 in legal fees from the couple who filed the complaint against her.

These cases are just a few of many small-business owners targeted for litigation.

(Photo/Handout) Barronelle Stutzman

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