I’ve wanted to write about Barronelle Stutzman’s faith, and her grace under pressure, for weeks. I kept praying that her predicament would resolve itself. I hoped that the “powers-that-be”, in the State of Washington, would finally come to their senses and realize that Barronelle lives in America – the land of the free, especially the land of the religiously free!
But, that was not to be. Instead, they’ve proved themselves to be no better than the pagans of ancient Rome, heartlessly tossing Christians to the lions in the Colosseum to appease their twisted priorities. And, to make matters much worse, unlike the Romans, most of these modern-day persecutors of Christians, are Christians themselves!
On February 19, 2015, while Barronelle was peacefully sleeping in Richland, Washington, she would suddenly awaken to find that her flower shop had been moved to pagan Rome, or perhaps Nazi Germany, or maybe Communist Red China or worse, Islamist Iran, where intolerance for people of faith ran rampant.
It was on that day that Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom, 44, ruled against Barronelle’s right to religious freedom, (which we all thought was unquestionably guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution) and, in favor of anti-Christian homosexual proclivities.
Oddly, just five months earlier, the judge who had presided over Barronelle’s nearly 2-year-old case, Judge Salvador Mendoza, 43, was replaced by Judge Ekstrom, at what seemed like the eleventh hour.
Looking back, could Mendoza have been a Christian, could he have been leaning in favor of Barronelle and was therefore “promoted” out-of-the-way? We will probably never know, as Judge Ekstrom would rule on Barronelle’s case, in Mendoza’s stead.
Ekstrom not only ruled that Barronelle’s business was in violation of Washington’s anti-discrimination laws but incredibly, so was she. He deliberately ruled, to not only place her business on the chopping block, but also her personal assets, including her home and her savings! The viciousness of the ruling was unprecedented. It was truly a persecution!
Ekstrom ruled that Barronelle must stop bringing her faith to work and pay a fine or lose EVERYTHING to the two gay men, who brought their suit against Bartonella, simply because she was a practicing Christian.
Barronelle stood her ground and flat refused, saying that she loved Jesus more than her belongings.
Mrs. Stutzman was born in Springfield, Missouri. She is a 70-year-old mother of 8, grandmother to 23 and great-grandmother to 3.
In 1948, Barronelle moved with her family to the Tri-Cities of Richland, Kennewick and Pasco as a three-year-old. Her father came to the state of Washington because jobs were plentiful. The United States government’s Manhattan Project, which was making plutonium for nuclear weapons, was in full swing and they needed workers in the region.
Stutzman’s Christian faith has sustained her throughout her entire life. Although her father was an atheist, her mother was a devote Christian. And, for as long as she can remember, she went to Church with her mother every Sunday.
When Barronelle’s mother bought her flower shop in the early 1980s, it was named Arlene’s Flowers. And, soon after her mother purchased the shop, Barronelle began working there. She started as a delivery person and soon began making flower arrangements. She didn’t enjoy the work, until one day she realized that the shop was not just about flowers, it was about people.
Real people, who needed flowers for the best of times, and the worst of times, in their lives. People who had their own troubles and their own joys. People who were once strangers but would soon become friends. People who loved, lived and lost with grace and courage. Just good, everyday Christian people, trying to do the best they could with the opportunities, abilities and talents God gave them.
With this new understanding, Barronelle’s work at the shop suddenly became important to her and she began to minister to the community’s needs on multiple levels. She realized that her strong faith in God allowed her to not only rejoice at people’s celebrations including births, anniversaries, graduations, job promotions, engagements and holidays but that it could console those suffering with illness, loss or death as well.
So, when her mother became ill, Mrs. Stutzman happily bought the store that had provided her mother, herself and her customers, with so much more than simply flowers.
More than thirty years later, while still serving the community of Richland, her life would be changed forever, when on March 1, 2013, long-time customer, Robert Ingersoll, ironically, a manager at Goodwill Industries, entered her shop with a request.
Ingersoll walked into Arlene’s Flowers, just as he had done on many occasions over the previous nine years. But on that particular day, rather asking for Barronelle’s shop to design a flower arrangement for him, Robert asked if Barronelle would do all of the flowers for his September marriage, to his male partner, Curt Freed.
When the message was relayed to Barronelle, she discussed the request with her husband, and graciously declined Ingersoll’s request, because it was against her faith to participate in, or condone, homosexual activities as it would place her everlasting soul at risk of eternal damnation.
My initial reaction to this story was that Ingersoll was blatantly inconsiderate, shamefully intolerant and exceedingly disrespectful to have made this type of request of a woman that he knew was a devout Christian. Did he set her up, hoping to hit the lottery in court? With Washington’s one year old law, making discrimination against homosexuals a crime, my guess is, absolutely YES!
So, when Robert returned to Barronelle’s shop for an answer to his request, she told him that, as a Southern Baptist, she could not participate in his same-sex marriage, “because of my relationship with Jesus.”
As any real Christian knows, the Bible is very clear on this point.
1 Timothy 5:22
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.
And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter eternal life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.
When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.
And, in doing so, Barronelle would not only become a hypocrite, but more importantly, she would one day be accountable to God for her sinful actions as well. She decided that it was just not worth the risk, because the Bible is very clear on this point too.
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
1 Corinthians 6:9Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality.
The source of this vicious hatred would prove to be Ingersoll’s boyfriend, Curt Freed. When Robert returned to their home that day, Freed became incensed, with Barronelle.
And, with non-Christian vengeance, he took to Facebook to disparaged, denigrate and defame Mrs. Stutzman for her faith. His virulent intolerance for her Christian faith, was so ferocious, that Freed’s rant went viral, initiating the phone calls and hate mail.
Just ten days prior to the filing of the ACLU’s suit, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, 50, (who has a non-Christian ancestry) after hearing about Freed’s tirade on Facebook, decided to join the melee, and as a representative of the state, filed an anti-discrimination consumer protection lawsuit against Barronelle.
In response, Mrs. Stutzman’s lawyers, including Kristen Waggoner, who is the senior counsel from the Alliance Defending Freedom; Attorney Alicia M. Berry of Liebler, Connor, Berry & St. Hilaire and attorney JD Bristol, who is one of nearly 2,300 attorneys allied with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed a countersuit.
Dale Schowengerdt, Senior Legal Counsel for ADF explained the motion,
“In America, the government is supposed to protect freedom, not use intolerance for certain viewpoints to intimidate citizens into acting contrary to their faith. The attorney general has acted inappropriately by trying to intimidate Barronelle through his lawsuit rather than leaving the process where the law says such matters need to take place. Plenty of other florists are willing to provide flowers for same-sex ceremonies, yet both lawsuits against Barronelle insist on going after not only her business, but going after her personally as well. That’s extraordinary, and we’re asking the court to put a stop to it.”Schowengerdt continued, “The Attorney General’s action here, on behalf of the State of Washington, is based on an unprecedented interpretation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination…and the Consumer Protection Act…ADF’s motion says, “The State’s action goes against the statutes’ specific terms and more than thirty years of prior agency practice by successive Attorneys General. This Court should reject the Attorney General’s illegitimate claim of authority to bring this action…. Accordingly, this Court should dismiss the Complaint filed by the State of Washington for lack of primary jurisdiction, failure to exhaust administrative remedies as required by law, and lack of standing.”
Dale Schowengerdt, is later quoted as saying, “This is the first time in the history of the Washington Attorney General’s Office that they have done something like this,” He went on to say that, “This is definitely a political issue for the attorney general. It’s unusual for him to go around the state talking so much about specific cases, but he has talked a lot about this, and when they filed the suit, he was the media point person for it.”
On June 29, 2013, Mendoza combined Ingersoll’s and Freed’s separate cases into one. And then, just six months later, on January 16, 2014, Mendoza – after being on the Benton County Superior Court for just 8 months, as compared to his predecessor Judge Craig Matheson, who served 26 years on the bench – was suddenly nominated by Pres. Obama to become a federal judge on the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Washington State.
And just as interestingly, Mendoza had replaced Matheson just a couple of weeks after both law suits were filed against Barronelle Stutzman in April of 2013.
On February 19, 2015, Judge Ekstrom ruled that Mrs. Stutzman’s refusal to provide flowers because of sexual orientation violated Washington’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. She was fined $1,000, plus $1 in court costs and fees. Barronelle believes the judgement will prevent her from practicing her Southern Baptist faith.
1177 Lee Blvd.
Richland, WA 99352
February 20, 2015
Attorney General Bob Ferguson
1125 Washington St. SE
P.O. Box 40100
Olympia, WA 98504
Re: State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers and Barronelle Stutzman
Dear Mr. Ferguson,
Thank you for reaching out and making an offer to settle your case against me.
As you may imagine, it has been mentally and emotionally exhausting to be at the center of this controversy for nearly two years. I never imagined that using my God-given talents and abilities, and doing what I love to do for over three decades, would become illegal. Our state would be a better place if we respected each other’s differences, and our leaders protected the freedom to have those differences. Since 2012, same-sex couples all over the state have been free to act on their beliefs about marriage, but because I follow the Bible’s teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, I am no longer free to act on my beliefs.
Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It’s about freedom, not money. I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important. Washington’s constitution guarantees us “freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.” I cannot sell that precious freedom. 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. That is something I will not do.
I pray that you reconsider your position. I kindly served Rob for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend. I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and I will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case. You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating, and having a home. If you are serious about clarifying the law, then I urge you to drop your claims against my home, business, and other assets and pursue the legal claims through the appeal process. Thanks again for writing and I hope you will consider my offer.
Pope Benedict XVI called what has happened to Barronelle, and what is happening to other Christians, the tyranny of tolerance. He went on to say that the “sexual rights” of some are more important than the religious rights of others. How eerily correct he was in that statement.
Barronelle’s ADF lawyer, Kristen Waggoner said, “The message of these rulings is unmistakable: The government will bring about your personal and professional ruin if you don’t help celebrate same-sex marriage.
Mrs. Stutzman said she is holding up under the stress of the case and bears no ill will toward the couple. She recently said that, “The support has far outweighed the bad and if (Rob) comes in, I would give him a hug and catch up on his life.”
Barronelle Stutzman is an extraordinarily admirable woman, a Christian woman who has inspired a nation of Christians to stand up for their faith, despite overwhelming odds.
I pray that the powers-that-be come to realize that, unless the vengeful, vicious Ingersoll/Freed’s of the world are stopped, wonderful Christians, like Barronelle Stutzman, will cease to exist. Christians are the backbone of America’s greatness and the reason why America is the only country on earth where people stand in line to enter.
It’s all about religious freedom, and without that, America will shrivel on the vine of history and men like Ingersoll, Freed, Ferguson and Ekstrom will be to blame.
Let’s pray that Barronelle’s Christian persecutors read the following quote from the Bible and are touched by the Holy Spirit to change their treacherous ways and come back to God.