For several years people have watched with anticipation and fascination as the case of a florist who decided she could not maintain a good conscience if she created a flower arrangement for a gay customer’s ‘wedding.’ Certainly at that time, Baronnelle Stutzman, the florist, had no idea that her decision not to participate in the wedding of Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed could result in her losing everything she has. Last week, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled unanimously against her and now all parties are headed to the United States Supreme Court. While the decision should not have been unexpected, few recognize the significance of what we are seeing take place.
Culturally, this case has affirmed some disturbing practices taking place within our our society. Let’s be clear here though. This case did not spark a new wave of cultural practices, but has simply reaffirmed those already taking place. Over the last few years we have become a nation divided along every line that is divisible, and we see those practices reaffirmed in the following ways:
- Distortion of Truth: Much of this case has been misrepresented by varying people, and even more by the media. Claiming that Ms. Stutzman refused service to gay people, she is anti-gay, and making this case about discrimination while failing to consider that she served them for almost 10 years previously and in no way had she been discriminating against them.
- Destruction of Opposing Views: The florist case is only one of a few across the country and generally there is one MO in place that we see. The cases have become about destroying those who hold to different beliefs. Even in the case of Ms. Stutzman, the plaintiffs made the decision to go after her as an individual, not as a business owner, thus threatening to take away all that she has worked for. If the case were merely about taking a stance, there are different ways to accomplish the same purpose. Repeatedly though, we see the intolerance of opposing views as individuals such as Stutzman are insulted, bullied, and threatened.
- Devaluation of People: Ultimately, there is but one result of this situation. While claiming to show value of all life, they are actually devaluing individuals more. Instead of allowing free discussion and critical thinking, the destruction of opposing views is sought while forcing all people to conform to a worldly mold.
It’s unfortunate that such blatant hypocrisy is allowed to be unconfronted. In reality what we see is discrimination against Baronnelle Stutzmanfor her religious beliefs. Yet, this is the status of the culture in which we find ourselves in.
However, there is more to consider here. While affirming current cultural trends, the decision released Thursday night last week (February 16, 2017) has also given acceptance to new practices:
- Redefines Discrimination: The pattern redefines what discrimination is. While many forms and documents are required to include some phrasing that indicates that there will be no discrimination based upon age, sex, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, the decision before us has elevated one of those above the others.
- Redefines Discriminatory Practices: By logic, redefining discrimination means that discrimination against religion is ok when it is ‘labeled’ as discriminatory. Note one point here: It does not have to actually be discriminatory, only labeled as such by society, which is what we face here. In a response to the ruling, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee released a statement applauding the decision as an indication that intolerance based on sexual orientation is unlawful and that in Washington State no one can be discriminated against “because of who they love.” The implication by the Governor is that religious freedom is not an exercisable right at all.
- Redefining Discrimination of the Future: Finally, this sets a precedent in which people may continuously redefine what is considered to be discrimination. This is to be expected when truth is relative. That means what you do today may be considered discrimination tomorrow and it is feasible that it could result in the loss of all possessions.
So while applauding the decision of the Washington State Supreme Court, most fail to realize that the standards have now changed and it is feasible that they can change in the future. Therefore, there are no safe rights, freedoms, or practices anymore because they can continuously be remanufactured and reapplied; they are ever-changing.
The stakes of this case are high because the result impacts basic freedoms that were guaranteed at the founding of our nation. Government has found a way to influence and force religions to conform to cultural standards and is in the process of limiting free speech as a result. The concern here is that if these two basic elements of our Constitution cannot be protected, what can? The whole case reiterates the Christian’s need to be educated and encouraged by the teachings of Scripture and furthermore, the culture’s need to be educated on the issues and their long-term impact (I would urge you to take a further look at the links below; you’re bound to learn something you didn’t know about the case).
Disclaimer: In writing this article, I am compelled to share two things.
- First, in the early 1990’s Jay Inslee was a Washington State House of Representatives member for my area. As a child, I volunteered with his campaign, or rather my mother volunteer me to work on his campaign and therefore I have had previous contact with him. However, this was not my own decision and I was young (about 11 years old) and did not have any defined beliefs at that time. This was more than 20 years ago, he does not know me, and that contact has no bearing on my religious beliefs or the contents of this article.
- Second, I worked with one of the plaintiffs, Robert Ingersoll, for almost four years in the early 2000’s (for a year and a half he was my supervisor). As with any coworker, I did not agree with every decision he made, and certainly he probably did not agree with mine either. Despite that, and my disagreement with his lifestyle because of religious beliefs, I found Rob to be very pleasant and likable. As such, I enjoyed our time working together because he created an enjoyable work environment and modeled good customer service. However, we have not had contact with one another in more than 12 years, and that previous work relationship has no impact on my religious beliefs or the contents of this article.
Additional Resources (click the links):
1) Washington Post Article: This is the Washington Post’s original article about the story as it broke last week. It is from here that I obtained information about Governor Jay Inslee’s response to the decision cited in this article. It also proves the point of distorting the facts of this case.
2) The Baronnelle Stutzman Story: A seven-minute video detailing the background of the case from the perspective of Barronelle Stutzman.
3) 21 Questions with Barronelle Stutzman: Barronnelle Stutzman answers 21 questions in three minutes. One thing struck me with this video when it was released. Note her humility in contrast to the prideful arrogance with which she is being attacked.
(Photo “Temple of Justice” courtesy of user cmh2315fl and Flickr)