WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and over 40 members of Congress signed an amicus brief in support of the First Amendment rights of Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington. The brief argues the state court’s decision in Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington conflicts with First Amendment precedent protecting artistic works and prohibiting the government from compelling expressive conduct.
Senator Tillis wrote an op-ed last week in Fox News warning about the threats to religious freedoms in America and the effort by the left to subvert the constitutional rights of Americans of faith.
Senator Tillis is joined by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) Mike Braun (R-IN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), James M. Inhofe (R-OK), John Kennedy (R-LA), James Lankford (R-OK), James E. Risch (R-ID), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Roger F. Wicker (R-MS). Reps. Vicky Hartzler (MO-04) and Jody Hice (GA-10) are leading several members of the House of Representatives in filing the amicus brief.
The 13 Senators and 30 House members are asking the Supreme Court to hear Ms. Stutzman’s case to give her a chance for justice and to ensure that no creative professional faces government coercion to create art inconsistent with their convictions. Americans across the country hold different views, beliefs, and convictions about important issues. But the First Amendment protects the freedom of faith and individual will to live out beliefs without government hostility or punishment.
“The Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington case could set a troubling precedent by making it acceptable to punish American small business owners because of their religious convictions, violating their First Amendment rights,” said Senator Tillis. “I am proud to stand with my colleagues as we defend the First Amendment rights of the American people and call on the Supreme Court to hear this case.”
“Barronelle serves and hires people from all walks of life. What she can’t do is take part in—or create custom floral arrangements celebrating—sacred events that violate her religious beliefs. The briefs filed with the Supreme Court affirm that principle,” said Kristen Waggoner, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division, who argued on Stutzman’s behalf before the Washington Supreme Court in 2016 and who also argued for Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips before the U.S. Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop. “The Washington Supreme Court upheld a ruling that threatens Barronelle with personal and professional ruin. Regardless of what one believes about marriage, no creative professional should be forced to create art or participate in a ceremony that violates their core convictions.”
“Conservative women understand the fundamental principles of liberty enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We are thankful for Members of Congress who are unwavering in their commitment to protect them from recurring threats. To compel someone, as the Washington Supreme Court did in the case of Barronelle Stutzman, to use her artistic expression to support something that violates her conscience and tenants of her faith is an anathema to the Founders intent and to our Constitutional principles. It simply must not stand,” said Penny Nance, CEO & President of Concerned Women for America.
Six years ago, Ms. Stutzman referred a customer to another florist because she couldn’t create the floral arrangements to celebrate his same-sex wedding given her religious convictions. Washington’s Attorney General and the American Civil Liberties Union both filed lawsuits against Ms. Stutzman.
On June 6, 2019, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against Barronelle for a second time, after the U.S. Supreme Court instructed it to reexamine her case in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision. On September 11, 2019, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to review the Washington Court’s decision and uphold Barronelle’s freedom to create freely.