How a florist showed us a good way…and was penalized for it.

Her name is Baronelle Stutzman who was 70 at the time that these events took place. She is a florist in Washington State who refused to do the floral arrangements for a same sex couple who was about to marry. For just a moment try and put whatever reaction you have to that information, whether it be outrage that she would discriminate or pride that she stood up for her beliefs aside, and consider what occurred in the actual case.

Robert Ingersoll was the man who was to marry and had been a customer for nearly a decade. In the court documents, he affirmed that the florist held “held no animus toward homosexuals”. Miss Stutzman recommended other florists that would be able to help whose quality she believed on par with, or better than, hers. As the case gained national attention, the two men even got offers of free flowers for their wedding. At the end of all of this, the two things that they were looking for, their wedding, and the flowers desired for it, were provided, and all was well. I am not trying to minimize any hurt feelings they may have had, simply pointing out that the desired end result occurred.

There were numerous lawsuits filed, including by the state attorney general which not only would normally cost thousands of dollars to defend against, but would also cause her to either decide to continue on as a florist and provide flowers to all, or to pay her fine and shut down. In fairness, the state did send letters to her asking her to comply with state law that guarantees no one is discriminated against because o sexual orientation. Miss Stutzman refused based upon her freedom to practice and live out her faith.  A summary ruling went against her. It will allow the gentlemen in question (represented by the ACLU) and the state could collect fees and damages not only from her business, but from her personally. She could end up losing home, savings, her livelihood etc.

Here is the problem…the two gentlemen who were married have suffered no damage. Their right to marry and to have flowers at the wedding were not infringed upon. The one ordering the flowers admitted that Miss Stutzman had not shown any animus toward him or to homosexuals in general. To her credit, and to the best of my knowledge Miss Stutzman has not said anything disparaging about the individuals, but has simply maintained that this is a sincere faith for her and she will not violate it. (Her legal team has had some harsh words for the judge and the state, but I suspect that is fairly normal in cases such as this) That should be commended. Faced with the potential of incredible loss, she is willing to stand for her belief. A belief that I might point out, has not actually done any lasting harm.  She managed to not show any negative feelings, she recommended others that could perform the requested service, she did it the right way. She said, in essence, I can not do this because of what I believe, but here are others who perform quality work that can. No damage was done here. No rights were violated. The two men are, to the best of my knowledge, still happily married…well almost no harm. A 70 year old grandmother who runs a small florist shop was harmed. She was harmed for politely and civilly standing by a sincere belief.  She was harmed for trying to help others find the service that she could not provide. She was harmed because she followed her beliefs and managed to do so in a way that even the one who was “harmed” said she had shown no animus toward him personally or toward homosexuals in general.

So to us. In the hot button questions of homosexuality, abortion, gun control, Rob Bell, etc. how many of us can say that we have not shown animus to someone? How many of us can say that we have treated those whom we disagree with dignity and respect so that even in our disagreement those whom we disagreed with could not point to an incident that we showed them anything but dignity and respect? For that matter, how many of us have spoken about the SBC in a way that we showed no animus? For all of the jokes about their faith, their backward thinking, etc. they did produce a 70 year old grandmother who did it right (yes, she is a southern baptist in Washington State, who knew that could happen?) and showed us the way to do it as well…and is getting punished for it. How many of us would be willing to lose business and home and livelihood for what we believed? Even more so how many of us would be able to do it in such away that even the party who was (apparently) aggrieved would not be able to make an accusation against us regarding our treatment of them?

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15 Replies to “How a florist showed us a good way…and was penalized for it.”

  1. Fifty years ago, not being able to eat lunch at a lunch counter at the Woolworth store didn’t hurt Black people, as there were other places they could have lunch.

    Yes, you are making that argument.

    1. A few years ago, while driving in Klan country along a US highway in Georgia, I came across an old service station. Through the fading whitewash big bold black letters were still visible on the concrete overhang above the pumps. They read: WHITES ONLY.

      Just up the road was a diner that, according to local residents, still reluctantly served black patrons until the day it closed.

    2. Well thank you for telling me what I am doing…love when that happens. Anyway, no that is not the argument being made at all. In fact there is no argument being made. The woman had done an amazing thing by finding a way to remain true to her sincerely held faith in a way that managed to not sow hatred toward the gentleman who was to be married (by his admission) and also had offered to help find another who could perform the service. She in no way tried to deny their marriage or ability to have flowers there, and, in fact, did the opposite by trying to help with others who could perform the service requested without moral complication. No where did I argue she did not break the law, she did according to the court system and unless over turned that remains true. What I did state is that she had managed to do this in a manner that, again by the admission and statement under oath of the gentleman who asked for the flowers, she had “had shown no animus”. If only all of us could manage to do the same.
      The similarities between the civil rights movement and the LGBTQ issues we are facing are there, but direct comparisons do not work for a variety of reasons, but that is not the point of the post. The point is, just to be clear, that she 1. Managed to stand for her faith in a way that did not transmit animus (I use this word because the “harmed” party did), 2. She is facing a penalty that is way out of line with whatever offense was given, and 3. That she has not backed down even in the face of said penalty. At the end of all of this, the only person who is facing lasting harm is the one whose life could possibly be destroyed because of a sincerely held faith belief.

  2. Ah, yes, once again it seems one of those all too often self-centered sincerely held personal beliefs, justified by Pharisaic legal reasoning, come into conflict with the Golden Rule.

    Funny how divine will and human ego seem to get together for a marriage of convenience in these situations.

    1. The bi bible is clear that we should not celebrate sin. It is the belief of the florist that this is a sin therefore in keeping with the rule of the whole council of scripture she is within the boundaries of the golden rule. When the whole council of scripture is considered, Christians should not celebrate sin in others nor should they desire sin to be celebrated in them. What I find most interesting about this is that everyone is trying to paint this as hate…except the man that the flowers were refused to.

      1. The florist was not invited to celebrate anything. Instead, she was asked to provide a legal quid pro quo service that she freely advertised as providing to the public in exchange for the remuneration she requested.

        Had the florist rendered unto Caesar that which was due Caesar, and unto God that which was due God, there would not have been a problem. However, like a lot of religious fanatics, the florist insisted on dictating her version of God’s will to Caesar. That got her into trouble.

        Put another way, the florist mixed her personal agenda with her professional responsibilities.

        At no point did I say the the florist hated homosexuals. Nevertheless, the florist’s claim to not hate homosexuals comes off sounding much like white segregationists claiming some of their best friends are blacks!

    1. I have not said otherwise. I did say that she has stood up for what she believes in, managed to navigate a difficult situation without leaving the impression of hate toward the gentleman in question and has stayed firm in her convictions despite the possible consequences. I have further said that we should all be so firm in our convictions and be willing to suffer for them thus if that occasion arises.
      I have further said, or at the very least strongly implied, that I do not in anyway personally believe that the consequence of not providing flowers for a wedding, any wedding of any one, should be the complete loss of livelihood, home and savings as it would be in this case if the state is granted it’s legal fees as well as the civil suit that is going forward. That is very real harm that once done can not be undone for her. That seems an overly heavy handed and ridiculous application of law, it certainly is not just, and it should honestly disturb everyone.

      I will say (again) that trying to compare the LGBTQ issues we are facing with the civil rights movement only creates a false equivalence between the two and does neither any justice. It is a tactic designed only to stir up an argument and brand people who think differently as something negative. I am happy to discuss, but really just unwilling to be insulted or to insult in return. (I will occasionally be rather sarcastic however).

  3. “Well thank you for telling me what I am doing…love when that happens.”

    A simple thanks offered for pointing this out would have been all a grateful person needed to do.

    You know that White Supremacists used the Bible 50 years ago to justify their actions, just as the remaining White Supremacists do today.

    Maybe there is more than the Bible to help the Christian figure these things out?

  4. Render unto Ceasar…an answer Christ gave to avoid the cleverly worded trap question of the Herodians and Pharisees. Fitting then that it would be used here as an attempt to trap I suppose. I find funny that this woman who refused a person services, and in doing so did break the law which I did not imply otherwise is so easily demonized, by everyone…except the person that she apparently harmed. I find it interesting that in the name of justice, somehow people would defend her losing her entire lively hood when it is nowhere near proportionate a punishment to the crime she committed. I am aware of what white supremacists did in using the bible as I am aware of what each and every group with an agenda or ax to grind does with the bible.

    1. No trap intended. History is filled with examples of people giving up everything they had — even their lives — because they were unwilling to follow Ceasar.

      Likewise, history clearly records the Bible has been used to justify a multitude of political and theological ideologies. One might reasonably say that every man and woman can be his or her own theologian. .

  5. Another thing I’ve noticed about most “sincerely held personal beliefs” is that they tend to be highly selective.

    An example would be a Christian florist failing to provide flower at a homosexual wedding but not for a wedding in which one or both parties had either been previously married to still living spouses, or had been cohabiting.

    For decades, I’ve been amazed at how easily Bible-believing Christians conveniently turn a blind eye to adultery and fornication. Meanwhile, I ‘m still waiting to read about a church stoning church members for having sex outside of marriage!

    Now, here comes another example. Only in this case, this Christian college seems content having a beam in one eye while gouging out a speck in the other! For more of that tale of hypocrisy, follow the link below.

    By the way, last I read, Jesus didn’t much care for hypocrites!

  6. Invariably, sincerely held personal Christian beliefs avoid targeting potentially large or influential majorities within a church or denomination. Even deep-pocket minorities avoid scrutiny.

    A good example was Billy Graham’s relationship with William Randolph Hearst. Graham never condemned the adulterous relationship the publisher propagandist had with actress had with actress Marion Davies after the Hearst newspaper chain turned Graham into a media star shortly after World War II.

    Instead of going after real sin in high places, the war-mongering draft-dodging Graham took on communism. For Graham, it was a safe enemy. Both Hearst and the United States government opposed communism.

    Likewise, because victims of discrimination sincerely held personal Christian beliefs tend to be some easily marginalized group, this makes Christianity particularly vulnerable to being exploited by fascism.

    That’s what happened in Germany. Had it not been for the complicity of some upstanding Lutherans, a few million more Jews might be alive today.

    Jews, homosexuals, and nonconformists all make targets of convenience for fascism, It doesn’t matter so long as the victims are already on the fringes of society.

    That was the story of blacks after the War Between the States. Depending on which study one cares to cite somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 blacks have been lynched in the in the United States since the official end of slavery.

    Abortion providers, pointy headed liberal college professors, environmentalists, human rights advocates welfare recipients and the like also make good candidates for fascist propaganda. In fact, anybody Fox News, the Religious Right, or the Republican Party denigrates is probably on some wannabe fuhrer’s shit-list.

  7. Thank you, Scott, for your thoughtful post. I tried to convey a similar message on facebook, which wasn’t received well at all. Most of the negative messages came from friends with Judeo Christian backgrounds. They portrayed Mrs. Stuztman as a hater and accused me of inflaming what they considered ‘bad press’ in terms of the perceptions that people have about Christians being haters so far as Gay marriage is concerned. When I challenged my friends to see Mrs. Stuztman’s heart of love toward the couple she refused service to, I was told that I had it wrong, that her heart was full of hateful holes. Needless-to-say, I was mortified at how people missed the point that you so adequately put forth. In the end, I deleted my facebook post simply because no matter how hard I tried to explain what I perceived as a heart of love, was outright rejected.

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