night, the Kennewick City Council discussed a non-binding resolution
involving religious freedom in front of a standing room only crowd. The
resolution, sponsored by Kennewick City Councilman John Trumbo, calls
on Attorney General Bob Ferguson to drop his lawsuit against Arlene's
Flowers and asks the legislature to protect conscience rights and
A similar resolution has also been introduced in the Pasco city Council by Councilman Bob Hoffman.
advance of that committee meeting, Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent a
letter to Mr. Trumbo and Mr. Hoffman that was published in the Tri-City
That letter, the full text of which can be seen
below, contains a number of statements that deserve a response. (dark
green text is excerpts from the letter)
Stutzman and her attorneys] claim that Arlene's Flowers should be
allowed to serve those customers whom Ms. Stutzman's religion approves
of, and exclude those whom it does not.
is hard to view this statement as anything other than willful
dishonesty. The Attorney General's office has been litigating against
Barronelle Stutzman for more than two years now. In those two years,
Barronelle Stutzman has repeatedly stated in depositions, in legal
briefs, and in oral arguments that she was and is happy to serve people
who identify as gay. She has never denied service to someone because of
their sexual orientation and she never will. She will sell flowers to
gay people and even for gay weddings. Her only objection is to
providing floral services for a same-sex wedding, which would require
her to be a personal participant in the wedding.
the Supreme Court has long recognized, religious freedom is not the
freedom to discriminate against others in the name of religion.
Supreme Court has never taken this issue up. Efforts by government to
force people to be part of events they disagree with are very new
because historically we have respected the rights of individuals not to
be part of events they were uncomfortable with. The New Mexico Supreme
Court said that a photographer could be forced to take pictures of a
same-sex wedding, but a Kentucky Court recently acknowledged that a
printer has the right to decline to print t-shirts for a gay pride
parade because he disagrees with that message. This issue is far from
settled, in fact it is just getting started.
Rather, [religious freedom] is the right to the freedom of worship, and to be free from discrimination because of our religion.
First Amendment protects the "free exercise" of religion. The version
of the First Amendment which protects only the right to believe what you
want and attend the church of your choice exists only in the minds of
those who seek to control us, not in the Constitution.
I go to a restaurant with my young twins to celebrate their First
Communion, I should not have to worry about whether the restaurant will
refuse to serve me because we are Catholic.
course everyone agrees with this. However, if Mr. Ferguson and his
young twins wanted the restaurant owner to cater their exorcism, an
atheist business owner should have the right to decline to participate
without fear of being sued for discrimination on the basis of religion.
After all, it is not the person requesting the service they object to,
but the nature of the service requested.
Arlene's Flowers refused to serve Mr. Freed and Mr. Ingersoll because they are gay.
discussed above, this also is not true. Arlene's Flowers served Mr.
Freed and Mr. Ingersoll for nine years knowing they were gay. Arlene's
Flowers stands ready to serve them again. Arlene's Flowers serves
everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. But there are some
events they are uncomfortable being part of.
State law says that if a business chooses to provide a service to
heterosexual customers it must provide that service to gay and lesbian
Washington State law says no
such thing. It says only that you cannot discriminate on the basis of
race, religions, gender, veteran status, sexual orientation, etc...
Non-discrimination laws were created to make sure that businesses did
not have explicit policies stating "No Jews", "No Mexicans", "No
Mormons" or anything of the kind. By happily and graciously serving
everyone, Arlene's Flowers abides by both the letter and the spirit of
The Attorney General's interpretation of the
law means that the wedding industry is now off-limits to those who
believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. America
was created specifically in response to the environment in Europe where
people had to hold a certain set of beliefs in order to have equal
access to economic opportunity.
We must resist the attempts to impose a new state religion built around a specifically belief about sexuality.
The Kennewick City Council agreed to take this issue up at a future meeting.
a result, this debate will continue in Kennewick and around the
country. It will continue because it is fundamental to who we are as a
nation. Will individuals enjoy the right of association and the free
exercise of religion in the way we always have? Will we surrender those
rights to a government desiring to control us in the name of tolerance?
weakness of the Attorney General's position is exposed by his need to
repeatedly misrepresent Arlene's Flowers position. If you have strong
arguments, the truth is your friend.
Still, the outcome of this debate will not be determined by who has the greatest argument, but who has the strongest resolve.
To share your thoughts with Attorney General Ferguson about this letter or his lawsuit against Arlene's Flowers, call his office at 360-753-6200. Be respectful, but be heard.
Contact your legislators and ask them to protect conscience rights and religious freedom. You can email your legislators here or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000.