Commentary

Tony Perkins: Wash. State Supreme Court Tramples First Amendment in Ruling Against Stutzman

Tony Perkins
By Tony Perkins | February 16, 2017 | 4:03 PM EST

Barronelle Stutzman, center, a florist who was fined for denying service to a gay couple in 2013, holds a flower as she embraces a supporter after a hearing before Washington's Supreme Court, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, in Bellevue, Wash. Stutzman was sued for refusing to provide services for a same sex-wedding and says she was exercising her First Amendment rights. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Washington State Supreme Court issued a ruling today that puts at risk the home and personal assets of Barronelle Stutzman, a florist shop owner who told two men that she'd be happy to sell them flowers but couldn't – in good conscience – arrange them for a wedding ceremony that violated her faith.

The Washington State Supreme Court's ruling tramples on our nation's long held tradition of respecting the freedom of Americans to follow their deeply held beliefs, especially when it comes to participating in activities and ceremonies that so many Americans consider sacred.

The court also ignored an opportunity to reaffirm the basic principle that the government may not trample on the constitutional rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion. These rights do not stop at the door of your local church, and instead extend to every area of a religious person's life.

The government has no authority to force Americans like Barronelle Stutzman to engage in speech and events with which they morally disagree.

Americans were told repeatedly that redefining marriage would have little impact on their lives. Yet now courts are seeking to drive families from their businesses – and now today even their homes as the result of crippling government imposed fines designed to force them to deny their faith. Barronelle knew her customer and friend identified as gay, yet happily served him for years; she just didn't want to be involved in his wedding. But the ACLU and the Washington State government couldn't stand this, and decided to make an example out of her.

Cultural elites may succeed in convincing judges to strip away the livelihoods of people but the elites continue to face a losing battle at the ballot box and in the court of public opinion.

The Supreme Court must correct this gross injustice and we urge President Trump to sign an executive order protecting religious freedom to ensure the federal government does not engage in the same discriminatory behavior as rogue states like Washington. Americans of all backgrounds have suffered the loss of their religious freedoms because of Obama-era policies. The time to protect religious freedom is now.

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.

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