Religious Freedom Rooted in State and Federal Constitutions

Barronelle Stutzman

Barronelle Stutzman

Phil Jensen


OLYMPIA, Wash. – Alliance Defending Freedom filed a brief Friday with the Washington Supreme Court that answers arguments the state and the American Civil Liberties Union have made in favor of government discrimination against a floral artist, whom they sued for acting consistently with her faith.

ADF attorneys asked the state high court to take up the case in June of last year after a lower state court ruled that Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, must pay penalties and attorneys’ fees for declining to use her artistic abilities to design custom floral arrangements for a long-time customer’s same-sex ceremony. Rather than participate in the ceremony, Stutzman referred the customer, whom she considers a friend and had served for nearly 10 years, to several other florists in the area who would provide high-quality arrangements and wedding support.

“Barronelle and many others like her around the country have been more than willing to serve any and all customers, but they are understandably not willing to promote any and all messages,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner. “No one should be faced with a choice between their freedom of speech and conscience on one hand and personal and professional ruin on the other. Americans oppose unjust government actions that strong-arm citizens to create expression against their will.”

Rick Kriebel 2016


As the ADF reply brief explains, “The case boils down to this question: is there room in our tolerant, diverse, and freedom-loving society for people with different views about the nature of marriage to establish their ‘religious (or nonreligious) self-definition in the political, civic, and economic life of our larger community…?’ The trial court’s and [the state’s and the ACLU’s] answer is ‘no.’ Their view is that those who seek to establish their self-identity based on the millennia-old view that marriage is solely between a man and a woman may be coerced by law to express different views or be silenced. This is contrary to the best of our historical and constitutional traditions, which mandate that citizens who hold non-majoritarian views be given room to express them and not be coerced, punished, and marginalized through force of law.”

“The trial court’s and [the state’s and the ACLU’s] view—that there can never be a free speech exception to public accommodation laws—endangers everyone,” the brief continues. “If correct, then the consciences of all citizens are fair game for the government. No longer could a gay print shop owner decline to print shirts adorned with messages promoting marriage between one man and one woman for a religious rally. Nor could an atheist painter decline to paint a mural celebrating the resurrection of Christ for a church. Indeed, no speaker could exercise esthetic or moral judgments about what projects to take on where a customer claims the decision infringes on his or her rights under the WLAD [Washington Law Against Discrimination].”

“People in creative professions regularly have to make decisions about where they lend their artistic talents and the events in which they will participate,” Stutzman said. “For me, it’s never about the person who walks into the shop, but about the message I’m communicating when someone asks me to ‘say it with flowers.’ The government should respect everyone’s freedom—including our artistic freedom and core religious beliefs about marriage—and not force us to create expression that violates our conscience.”

Woodrow Wilcox


Washington attorneys George Ahrend, John Connelly, and Alicia M. Berry are also counsel of record in the lawsuits, State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers and Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.



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Bob Ellis has been the owner of media company Dakota Voice, LLC since 2005. He is a 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, a political reporter and commentator for the past decade, and has been involved in numerous election and public policy campaigns for over 20 years. He was a founding member and board member of the Tea Party groups Citizens for Liberty and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota with his wife and two children.
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  • retiredday

    Is there a legal expert out there who can explain the legal justification for forcing a private business to serve customers, when denial of service is based on offensive morals? If that is the case, then there is no such thing as moral standards.

    This is not a matter of making a class distinction or a racial or sexist or even religious discrimination. It is strictly a matter of the freedom to make a moral judgement.

    This is a private (not public) business that is not discriminating against homosexuals. As the article said, there are many other florists in the area who would do the job. So, legally, the customer did not suffer loss or damage.

    This was a hostile act by the customer to force the florist to participate in a union that is abhorrent to the florist’s faith. Why is it OK for homosexuals to rub their sexuality into the face of traditionalists, but not for traditionalists to politely decline service on the basis of their moral convictions?

    The reason is that being a Bible-believer is politically incorrect. But I certainly don’t see any legal basis for this current hooliganism on the part of the Gay Agenda.