Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Christian florist rejects attorney general's offer, won't betray her religious beliefs

A judge ruled last week that a Washington florist and Christian grandmother Barronelle Stutzman violated the law when she refused to provide arrangements for a same-sex wedding, Stutzman
rejected a tempting settlement offer that would have spared her from losing her home and business, because it would have forced her to turn her back on God.

As Stutzman was found guilty of violating Washington's non-discrimination law last Wednesday for declining to service the wedding of Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed in 2013 due to her Christian belief of marriage, Stutzman runs the risk of losing not only her business but her house and life savings once a summary judgement is reached.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson offered the 70-year-old Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's flowers, a settlement on Thursday that would have spared Stutzman the high, bankrupting legal costs that she could incur as a result of the summary judgement.

The settlement offer would have required Stutzman to pay just $2,001 in fines and legal costs. However, the settlement also would have required Stutzman go against her religious beliefs and agree service gay wedding requests.

"I am prepared to settle this matter for a penalty of $2,000 under the Consumer Protection Act, a $1 payment for costs and fees, an agreement not to discriminate in the future, and an end to further litigation," Ferguson said in a statement.

The next day, Stutzman sent a letter to Ferguson rejecting his settlement and stating that the settlement would have required her to betray Jesus Christ, much like Judas did.

"Washington's constitution guarantees us 'freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.' I cannot sell that precious freedom," Stutzman's letter asserts. "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."

Stutzman's letter added that Ferguson continues to prove that he does not understand the true meaning of "freedom."

"Your offer reveals that you don't really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It's about freedom, not money," Stutzman wrote. "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."

Although Stutzman has been portrayed by some media outlets as being an intolerable bigot for refusing to serve a gay wedding, Stutzman served Robert Ingersoll for over 9 years before he asked her to provide floral arrangements for his gay wedding. Even though Stutzman had built a great relationship with Ingersoll, she could not in good faith put her full heart into making floral arrangements for Ingersoll's wedding and thought it would be best to decline to Ingersoll's request.

After much social media uproar, Ferguson's office filed a lawsuit against Stutzman, although no official complaint was filed against her. After the state filed a lawsuit, the couple filed a lawsuit with backing from the American Civil Liberties Union.

"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," Stutzman's letter stated. "I've also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and 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," Stutzman added.

Stutzman further added that the state's laws present a double standard when it comes to protecting citizens' differing beliefs on marriage.

"Our state would be a better place if we respected each other's differences, and our leaders protected the freedom to have those differences," Stutzman wrote. "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."

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