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Attorney: SCOTUS ruling could help Arlene’s Flowers case in Washington

The Arlene's Flowers saga continues. (File, Associated Press)

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Christian Colorado baker in a gay wedding case, Washingtonians are wondering if this will have any bearing on a case closer to home — Arlene’s Flowers.

Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Richaland’s Arlene’s Flowers, has taken her case to the national level after the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that she violated anti-discrimination laws in 2013. She refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding and cited her religious beliefs as the reason why.

RELATED: Dori says flower case illustrates how freedom is under attack

Stutzman’s attorney, Jim Campbell, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that the Supreme Court essentially declared that it is unconstitutional to treat “people of faith worse than other business owners,” setting a precedent that could substantially help Stutzman’s case.

“We believe that the record in the case that was decided yesterday, just like the record in the case of Barronelle Stutzman, shows evidence of that sort of anti-religious hostility,” he said. “And we believe for that reason that the decision the court issued yesterday should help Barronelle ultimately prevail in her case.”

Campbell criticized Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson for the “relentless” manner in which he brought the lawsuit against the small flower business.

“He had a choice — he could have respected her religious freedom, which … is protected not only under the state constitution, but also under the federal constitution,” Campbell said. “Or he could have done what he did, which is set out on an unprecedented path to pursue prosecution against her, to make an example of her, and ultimately to crush her for trying to live her life and operate her business consistently with her religious beliefs.”

According to Campbell, Ferguson did “unprecedented things,” bypassing the standard administrative process and bringing his own lawsuit based on reading about Arlene’s Flowers on social media.

“This clearly shows a state attorney general who was out to get Barronelle Stutzman simply because he disagrees with her beliefs about marriage,” Campbell said.

Campbell pointed out that when Bedlam Coffee kicked out a group of Christian anti-abortion activists because of their faith last autumn, the attorney general did not step to their defense.

“It seems to me that he’s evidencing hostility toward Barronelle because of her faith,” he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court could now take one of three actions, Campbell said. It could grant review to the case, decline to review the case, or it could take an action called “grant, vacate, and reverse,” which would eliminate the Washington State Supreme Court’s ruling on Arlene’s Flowers. It would then be sent the back to the state court “in light of [the Colorado] case,” Campbell explained.

“Anything that gives Barronelle another day in court, we’re hopeful for,” he said. “We’d love for anything that allows Barronelle to vindicate her freedom and right to live and work consistent with her faith.”

 

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