Washington Florist Wants to Be a Martyr

In the latest of a string of cases involving discrimination against gay couples getting married, a judge in Washington said last week that a florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding had violated state anti-discrimination laws and that her religious beliefs did not give her a legal exemption from such laws. The florist is clearly seeking to become a martyr:

A florist rejected a settlement offer from Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Friday, days after a state judge ruled that her “relationship with Jesus” was not enough to justify her refusal to provide flower arrangements for the wedding of a same-sex couple.

The Wednesday ruling determined that the “religiously-motivated conduct” of Barronelle Stutzman, the Southern Baptist owner of Arlene’s flowers, was in “direct and insoluble conflict” with the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws.

On Friday, Stutzman told Ferguson in a letter released through her attorneys that the state’s settlement offer of a $2,000 penalty, a $1 payment for court and legal fees, and an agreement “not to discriminate in the future,” was akin to Judas’s betrayal of Jesus in the Bible. “You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver,” she wrote, adding, “that is something I will not do.”

“Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about,” she added. “It’s about freedom, not money.”

The judge had little choice here. The law says what it says and Washington does not even have a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that might provide a hypothetical basis for such an exemption. She can now challenge the constitutionality of the application of the anti-discrimination statute on appeal, but she is very unlikely to win such an argument. The state clearly has a compelling interest in preventing discrimination.

And I wish someone would explain why this case is any different from a florist who would refuse to do the flowers for an interracial wedding. Discrimination on the basis of both race and sexual orientation are equally forbidden by law in that state (though not at the federal level). There are lots of people with religious objections to interracial marriage just as there are with religious objections to same-sex marriage. Legally, the situations are absolutely identical. So if we’re going to grant religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, we have essentially gutted those laws completely and turned back the clock more than 50 years. The Civil Rights Act’s employment, housing and public accommodation provisions would be rendered irrelevant for all practical purposes.

"We're slipping in the polls. Time to kills some foreigners in their own homes."

Republicans Refuse to Defend Trump on ..."
"Issuing trading stamps?! I'd like to know the story behind that one.Raise your hand if ..."

USCIRF Releases Report on Blasphemy Laws
"It wasn't completely meaningless. We're not exclusively talking about how Trump loves Nazis. So Mission ..."

Trump’s Meaningless ‘Shift’ in Afghanistan Policy
Follow Us!
POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Chiroptera

    And I wish someone would explain why this case is any different from a florist who would refuse to do the flowers for an interracial wedding.

    Because the basis for a reasonable religious exemption is how uncomfortable the issue makes certain members of the US Supreme Court.

  • John Pieret

    I wish someone would explain why this case is any different from a florist who would refuse to do the flowers for an interracial wedding

    Judge Roy Bean Moore already explained it! Gay marriage is not at all the same as racial discrimination because one is genetically determined and the other is just a “lifestyle.”

    And if his church says gay marriage is ok, he’ll just have to change churches!

  • tbp1

    So if we’re going to grant religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, we have essentially gutted those laws completely and turned back the clock more than 50 years. The Civil Rights Act’s employment, housing and public accommodation provisions would be rendered irrelevant for all practical purposes.

    This, of course, is the whole point.

  • cottonnero

    I saw Washington Florist when he opened for Santana in ’73. True story.

    (How am I doing, Modus?)

  • MikeMa

    I suspect that any Jesus-like character walking into this story wouldn’t recognize the florist as religious in any way.

  • Chiroptera

    How much do you have to hate gay people in order to think selling some flowers to a gay couple is exactly the same as betraying the Messiah to the authorities who will then execute him in a very painful manner?

    Also, how stupid do you have to be to confuse a fine with a bribe?

  • U Frood

    And I wish someone would explain why this case is any different from a florist who would refuse to do the flowers for an interracial wedding.

    The standard response is to say that homosexuality is not a race. Or to just act outraged that you would make the comparison at all.

  • U Frood

    But Judas’s betrayal allowed Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, so maybe that isn’t such a huge sin. Maybe it’s Judas committing suicide that is comparable to selling flowers…

  • Pierce R. Butler

    At least Barronelle Stutzman has everything she needs to create her own crown o’ thorns!

  • erichoug

    I have to say, I really don’t get this. Let’s assume that you are religious and that you believe that same sex relationships are a sin, fine. Everyone believes what they believe and is entitled to believe that under our constitution.

    But here is the problem: to the best of my knowledge at least, there is nothing in the bible that proscribes you from doing business with someone that you consider a sinner. I seem to remember the bible specifically saying something like love the sinner, hate the sin. It doesn’t say don’t sell flowers to someone you consider to be a sinner.

    Seems like there are a whole lot of religious reasons to sell flowers to a gay or lesbian couple and very few reasons not to sell flowers to them.

  • John Pieret

    You know, I recently heard a report on NPR on how difficult it is for florists to get flowers in the right amount at the right time for Valentine’s Day. And since that time makes up much, if not most, of their yearly business, mistakes or problems could sink the business.

    Maybe she just feels that getting a couple of grand per appearance on the wingnut Christian rubber chicken circuit would be an easier way to make a living.

  • erichoug

    @ U Frood

    But Judas’s betrayal allowed Jesus to die on the cross for our sins

    Yeah, I never really got that. I mean if they Jewish temple and the Romans done exactly what they did, wouldn’t it have meant that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah and wouldn’t it have made your whole religion moot. So….Shouldn’t you really love the Jews, but in like a vaguely Ironic way. Oh wait, that’s what most of them do anyway.

  • gshelley

    She would probably say the difference is interracial marriage is not wrong and the people who objected misunderstood the bible. Probably the same if a florist decided they didn’t want to serve disabled people based on some strange notion of karma (and in direct violation of that previous law to end freedom, the American’s with Disabilities Act). She might agree that florists should be able to refuse weddings for the wrong religion, or to the wrong type of Christian

  • tbp1

    #8:

    But Judas’s betrayal allowed Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, so maybe that isn’t such a huge sin. Maybe it’s Judas committing suicide that is comparable to selling flowers…

    Yet another incomprehensible part of Christian beliefs. If you take the idea of the Crucifixion and Resurrection seriously, Christ’s death was both necessary and predetermined from before the Creation. But somehow, it was a bad thing for Judas (and the other Jews) to make it happen, despite the fact that it was God’s will from the beginning.

  • grumpyoldfart

    “You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver”

    Actually the story of Judas betraying Jesus isn’t quite as clear-cut as Barronelle Stutzman probably thinks it is. In fact the story wasn’t invented until decades after Jesus had died.

    – In 1 Corinthians 11:23 Paul says that Jesus was betrayed but he doesn’t name the betrayer.

    – In 1 Corinthians 15:5, Paul says that after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to “the Twelve”, so Judas was not yet dead, and apparently not regarded as a betrayer either. Judas was still with the apostles and apparently still being treated as an equal.

    [The twelfth apostle could not have been Matthias because Acts 1:26 says he wasn’t chosen until after Jesus had ascended into heaven.]

    – Twenty years after Paul had written to the Corinthians, Mark 3:19 names Judas as the betrayer but gives no hint that Judas had died.

    – Ten years after that, Matthew 27:5 added the story about Judas committing suicide.

    – And ten years later still, the author of Acts 1:18 invented a much more mysterious death for Judas, saying that he fell over and his bowels gushed out. Luke makes no mention of suicide. Luke seems to be trying to give the impression that Judas was zapped by God himself.

    * In 50AD Judas was still an apostle with not a stain on his character.

    * In 70AD Judas had become the apostle who betrayed Jesus.

    * In 80AD He was the betrayer who died at his own hand.

    * In 90AD He was the betrayer, struck down by a miracle from God.

    You can see the legend growing as the years go by.

  • raven

    You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver”

    Well, it had to be done.

    What if jesus got three years on the road crew with time off for good behavior? Where would xianity be now?

    (They’d be wearing little sledge hammers around their neck instread of crosses.)

    FWIW, I know jesus they fictional character. This woman is no jesus.

  • raven

    Actually jesus said, “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone”.

    And “judge not less you be judged” and “Vengeance is mine said the Sky Fairy”.

    Evidently she is a cafeteria xian and a hypocrite like them all.

  • lorn

    I always figured that Judas was the hero of the story. Jesus gives his life, but gets it back … so no net loss. Judas gives up his name, reputation, and life and doesn’t get any of it back. Who made the real sacrifice?

    For the whole Jesus on the cross story to work Jesus has to be captured and die on a cross and the capture has to take a form that allows at least some of his disciples to be well enough and in a position to witness the events so they can be recorded. Jesus can’t die in a battle because he has to be humiliated and die on a cross. He can’t be the last alive after the disciples fall trying to defend him because that would shift focus to the noble defense, taking attention away from the central figure, and it would eliminate all the trusted witnesses.

    The story teller is caught having to have the central figure captured intact, so all the damage can be seen as unjustified, but also while he is surrounded by followers, and without there being a battle that would distract from the central point. Judas makes the story work.

  • Glenn E Ross

    “Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about,” she added. “It’s about freedom, not money.”

    I don’t think she really understands herself. She thinks this is an attack on her religious beliefs when it isn’t her religious beliefs being restricted. It is her beliefs about the secular society that are being challenged.

    Does she sell to adulterers? drunkards? idolaters? liars? Does she bother to even check?

    If she were to have an application that every potential customer had to fill out to prove they did not violate any of her religious beliefs, I might have sympathy for her. (I think she would have few customers, though.)

    Because she only refuses to sell to one kind of “sinner” she is making a political or social statement, not a religious one. I don’t think the true believers realize how much their beliefs have been manipulated by politicians and others trying to profit from keeping them angry and afraid. Sometimes I actually feel sorry for them.

  • http://timgueguen.blogspot.com timgueguen

    grumpyoldfart, the progression you outline makes me wonder if Judas wasn’t the Leon Trotsky of the early Jesus followers, a major player who fell afoul of the others and was made into a villain to discredit his sect.

  • marcus

    Oh, she must be so happy! Suffering for Jesus. It just doesn’t get much better for a Christain.

  • xuuths

    timgueguen, the Gnostic Gospels make that very argument.

  • hunter

    Of course she’s going for martyrdom, but I wonder how much of it is her idea — any competent attorney would tell her to settle and get it over with, but she’s being represented by ADF.

  • shadow

    IIRC, she had sold flowers to at least one of the gentlemen in the past. She also has provided flower arrangements to other weddings, but no SSM’s.

    So, she has done business with those she now considers sinners, but refuses to do business with them now that they want her product to celebrate their nuptials.

    That is the main gist of the case — again, IIRC.

  • tfkreference

    Thanks, grumpy, great timeline I’m going to have to find the apologist’s site that refutes – supposedly – the contradictions in the bible and look up the 12 bit (the site is frustrating at one level, but entertaining if you like to see how thin someone can stretch an argument).

    Judas should be worshipped by xians (and already is, according to C. S. Lewis or the editor of my copy of The Srewtape Lettters – I don’t remember whether it’s in the text or a footnote).

    As a commenter here (IIRC – please accept the credit) once wrote, “Jesus had a bad weekend for your sins.”