Christian florist sued for turning down same-sex wedding urges believers to fight for religious liberty

A Christian florist from Richland, Washington, who was sued for refusing to participate in a same-sex wedding has urged believers to stand up for religious liberty before it was too late.

(REUTERS / Mark Blinch)Inae Lee (L) stands next to her partner Jen Chang Ho holding a rainbow-colored bouquet of flowers, before they take part in the "Celebration of Love", a grand wedding where over 100 LGBT couples got married, at Casa Loma in Toronto June 26, 2014.

Speaking to the Catholic News Agency in an interview, Barronelle Stutzman said she never thought that she would elevate her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 72-year-old owner of Arlene's flowers was sued by her long-time customer Rob Ingersoll for refusing to do a flower arrangement for his same-sex wedding.

Stutzman said she was aware that Ingersoll was gay right from the start, and she did not have any problem with that. In fact, he regularly requested flower arrangements for various occasions.

However, one day, Ingersoll shared with Stutzman that he and his boyfriend had gotten engaged, prompting the Christian florist to tell him that she could not do floral arrangements for his upcoming wedding and explained why. The customer initially asked for a recommendation to another florist, but she later learned that the Washington state attorney general and the American Civil Liberties Union had filed lawsuits against her.

The couple were only seeking actual damages which would have cost $7, but the florist decided to take her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to take a stand on her faith. She is now waiting for the high court's decision on whether they would hear her case or not.

For Stutzman, her decision was the only way that she could adhere to her Christian beliefs. The Southern Baptist florist said that for her, being part of a same-sex wedding ceremony would be tantamount to betraying her relationship with Jesus Christ.

"Don't think this cannot happen to you," Stutzman warned Christians. "I never thought that we would have a government that would come in and tell you what to think, what to do, what to say, what to create — and if you don't do it, you'll be totally destroyed."

She added: "If we don't stand now, there will be nothing to stand for."

In a commentary, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins cited data from Cato Institute's 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey which said 68 percent of Americans think Christian bakers should be able to refuse to cater to a same-sex wedding if it violated their religious beliefs. This figure is higher than data from June's Rasmussen Report.

In addition, 66 percent of Americans said a bakery that turns down an order for a same-sex wedding should not be punished, and only 22 percent think it should be sanctioned. For Perkins, these figures were quite encouraging, especially for business owners who were opposed to same-sex marriage.