U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is leading over 40 members of Congress in an amicus brief in support of Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington.
The brief is available here. It argues the state court’s decision in Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington conflicts with First Amendment precedent protecting artistic works and prohibiting the government from compelling expressive conduct.
“Current events such as the protests in Hong Kong and the ongoing conflict in Syria remind us daily that we are fortunate to live in a country devoted to protecting individual liberties,” Blackburn said in a press release. “Academics, authors, and creative artists cannot be compelled by the state to express or create art that is inconsistent with their religious beliefs. We are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on Ms. Stutzman’s case so the justices will have an opportunity to affirm the Constitution’s strong and enduring safeguards on religious liberty for all Americans.”
The State of Washington’s attempts to shut down Arlene’s Flowers bear a striking resistance to the Colorado state government’s and liberal activists’ ongoing harassment of Christian cake artist Jack Phillips.
Phillips has been sued for a third time.
Senators joining Blackburn in filing the brief include Mike Braun (R-IN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), James M. Inhofe (R-OK), John Kennedy (R-LA), James Lankford (R-OK), James E. Risch (R-ID), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Roger F. Wicker (R-MS).
Representatives joining in the brief included Vicky Hartzler (R-MO-04) and Jody Hice (R-GA-10).
The 13 senators and 30 representatives are asking the Supreme Court to hear Stutzman’s case to give her a chance for justice and to ensure that no creative professional faces government coercion to create art inconsistent with their convictions. The First Amendment protects the freedom of faith and individual will to live out beliefs without government hostility or punishment, Blackburn said.
Hartzler said, “The government is overstepping its constitutional bounds by forcing Stutzman into an unfair, dichotomous choice—either act in contradiction to your faith or be banished from the marketplace. It is not illegal for individuals to peacefully live out his or her faith and to shape business practices accordingly. The Washington Supreme Court’s decision is a direct violation of Stutzman’s First Amendment rights.”
Kristen Waggoner, U.S. Legal Division senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom, has argued in courts on behalf of Stutzman and Phillips.
Waggoner said, “Barronelle serves and hires people from all walks of life. What she can’t do is take part in—or create custom floral arrangements celebrating—sacred events that violate her religious beliefs. The briefs filed with the Supreme Court affirm that principle. The Washington Supreme Court upheld a ruling that threatens Barronelle with personal and professional ruin. Regardless of what one believes about marriage, no creative professional should be forced to create art or participate in a ceremony that violates their core convictions.”
Six years ago, Stutzman referred a customer to another florist because she couldn’t create the floral arrangements to celebrate his same-sex wedding given her religious convictions. Washington’s Attorney General and the American Civil Liberties Union both filed lawsuits against Stutzman.
On June 6, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against Stutzman for a second time, after the U.S. Supreme Court instructed it to reexamine her case in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision. On September 11, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to review the Washington Court’s decision and uphold Stutzman’s freedom.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.