WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) 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 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,” said Senator Blackburn. “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.”
Senator Blackburn is joined by Senators Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Kennedy (R-La.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), James E. Risch (R-Idaho), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Roger F. Wicker (R-Miss.). Reps. Vicky Hartzler (MO-04) and Jody Hice (GA-10) are leading several members of the House of Representatives in filing the amicus brief.
These 13 Senators, along with 30 House members, are asking the Supreme Court to hear Ms. 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. Americans across the country hold different views, beliefs, and convictions about important issues. But the First Amendment protects the freedom of faith and individual will to live out beliefs without government hostility or punishment.
“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,” Rep. Hartzler said.
“Once again, people of faith are being demonized and targeted for their convictions,” said Rep. Hice. “It is truly unconscionable that anyone would be forced to act against their own deeply-held beliefs—whether in a personal or professional capacity. I commend Congresswoman Hartzler for her continued leadership on this issue, and I’m proud to join her in protecting our Constitutional right to live by the tenets of our faith.”
“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,” said Kristen Waggoner, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division, who argued on Stutzman’s behalf before the Washington Supreme Court in 2016 and who also argued for Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips before the U.S. Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop. “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.”
“Conservative women understand the fundamental principles of liberty enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We are thankful for Members of Congress who are unwavering in their commitment to protect them from recurring threats. To compel someone, as the Washington Supreme Court did in the case of Barronelle Stutzman, to use her artistic expression to support something that violates her conscience and tenets of her faith is an anathema to the Founders intent and to our Constitutional principles. It simply must not stand,” said Penny Nance, CEO & President of Concerned Women for America.
“This situation with Baronnelle is a regrettable sign of the times, when people of faith can’t go to work, mind their own business, and avoid persecution. Christians who only want to live out their faith in marketplace have become targets of the radical left But, thankfully, we can still find help in our court system. As long as judges acknowledge our inalienable (God-given) rights as reflected in the U.S. Constitution, we will maintain our freedom to believe. I pray the U.S. Supreme will take Baronelle’s case and uphold this precious freedom,” said Nathan Kellum, Counsel of Record for the Memphis-based Center For Religious Expression.
Six years ago, Ms. 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 Ms. Stutzman.
On June 6, 2019, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against Barronelle 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, 2019, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to review the Washington Court’s decision and uphold Barronelle’s freedom to create freely.