Have you heard of Barronelle Stutzman?
Most people haven’t, but if you are most people then you are really missing out on an amazing story. Granny Stutzman, as I like to call her, is a florist in Washington State who is being sued by the Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, for refusing to participate in a gay wedding. By participate, I mean provide flowers for the celebration. She doesn’t want to. The Attorney General says she has to. The case is now in the courts.
Granny Stutzman was not known at all before this case. She is not famous, nor is she a activist of any type. She is simply a near 70 year old woman who sells flowers for a living.
So how did it end up in court?
Granny Stutzman started a flower shop business over 38 years ago. For more than a decade she had one particular client, a homosexual man, with whom she was apparently on good terms. When she was approached by this man to do the floral arrangements for his upcoming same sex marriage she politely declined and is quoted as saying: “I am sorry. I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.”
As with many things these days, the story initially was posted on social media, after which Granny Stutzman received a huge amount of threatening phonecalls, emails and other similar types of contact. She was then charged by Bob Ferguson, the Attorney General, with a breach of Washington State’s Consumer Protection Act, namely discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
There has been a long history (legal and otherwise) since that point however the case is still going on, and has had several very interesting developments. But from the very beginning it has been a fascinating case to follow including the way it has been reported. This is the conclusion of an article on CNN:
Barronelle Stutzman’s case is nothing less than an egregious violation of our first freedom. It is Caesar saying, “Conscience be damned. Submit to the new sexual orthodoxy or risk losing everything.”
This is not tolerance. This is injustice that flies in the face of this nation’s laws and traditions. And if this kind of thing can be done to a 70-year-old grandmother running a small flower shop in rural Washington State, then it can be done to you. No one’s conscience is safe if this precedent becomes the norm.
So what has happened this year?
In late February 2015, the Attorney General proposed a settlement that offered a small fine in exchange for Granny Stutzman agreeing to admit wrong doing and to violate her conscience going forward.
Given what the AG is threatening to do, that is use the full coercive power of the state to force her to comply, and with that the threat of losing her home, her savings, her business, her livelihood, and in fact to lose everything, you would expect any normal person to give in, and pay the small fine.
Well, Granny Stutzman is not any normal person, and the statement she released through her legal team on 20 February 2015 is nothing short of astonishing as it is courageous. I would summarise it here, but her words are much more powerful:
“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.”
So why is this appearing on Christian Funny Pictures?
Because if it wasn’t so serious, and so sad, and so severe, it would be laughable. In fact, in my view, it is completely ridiculous. But whether you agree with her stand or not, whether you are for or against gay marriage, it is my hope and prayer that one day all sides of the debate can look back and think how absolutely twisted and perverted a prosecution of this type actually is. The goal here at Christian Funny Pictures has always been to laugh AS Christians not AT Christians. Sadly and unfortunately, this is a case of people laughing at Christians, and the destruction of a business women, who according to some “is risking everything to follow her Christian conscience“.
So what should you do?
Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you agree with her or not, and regardless of whether you would like to call her the ‘foolish florist’ or ‘brave Baronelle’, here is what I think you should do:
1. Follow the case very closely. There are important legal, political, theological and moral arguments surrounding this case, which affect the very way in which western society is run from the very way in which government is run, right down to the individual level.
2. Pray. Pray for Granny Stutzman if you are that way inclined. Pray for Bob Ferguson, the Attorney General. Pray for the legal system that justice would be done. Pray for a world that knows Jesus.
3. Join in the debate. Share this article. Comment below. These are important issues. Speak up.