Group Has Support of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Who Addressed Them in a Private Speech Behind Closed Doors Last Week
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Alliance Defending Freedom late last month successfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to agree to review the case of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Having finally gotten SCOTUS to accept the case of Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cake Shop, the ADF is now petitioning the Supreme Court to accept another, similar case: a Washington state florist who refused to do provide a floral arrangement for a same-sex couple's wedding.
The two cases are very similar. Both Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's Flowers in Washington, claim they aren't anti-gay, while insisting they have a First Amendment right to refuse service to gay people based on their deeply-held religious beliefs and artistic expression. Both have lost every case along the way. And both are represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a far right Christian legal firm that appears on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of anti-gay hate groups.
And as the embedded photo above proves, ADF's business model is turning in to collecting bakers and florists and others who refuse to serve same-sex couples or have exhibited anti-gay bias and taking their cases as far as they can, while fundraising off them.
The Barronelle Stutzman case borders on the absurd, and the ADF and their attorney handling the case have not been shy about playing loose with the facts, while mounting a full-fledged fundraising campaign as they failed at every turn.
"We need 1 million brave people to stand with us by donating $24 today," reads a fundraising appeal on ADF's website. "If 1 million people each give $24, we can match the amount that the ACLU just added to their funds, which they use to sue people of faith like Barronelle. And thanks be to God, generous Ministry Friends have given a $2 million matching grant to help provide a strong legal defense for Barronelle and other Christians like her. Please stand with us … and with Barronelle by making a tax-deductible gift, that will be matched dollar for dollar, today."
"Barronelle Stutzman’s continuing struggle to save her religious freedom should have every Christian in America deeply concerned," reads yet another fundraiser on the ADF site. (Why do they single out "Christians"?) "But today there is good news that could impact Barronelle’s case and others like it across the country. A generous Christian family has just given a $1.5 million matching grant to help provide a strong legal defense for religious freedom."
In a statement published by The Washington Blade, which reported on the news ADF is petitioning the Supreme Court, Stutzman explained her refusal to sell flowers to her long-time customer, Rob Ingersoll.
“There was never an issue with his being gay, just as there hasn’t been with any of my other customers or employees. He just enjoyed my custom floral designs, and I loved creating them for him. But now the state is trying to use this case to force me to create artistic expression that violates my deepest beliefs and take away my life’s work and savings, which will also harm those who I employ. I’m not asking for anything that our Constitution hasn’t promised me and every other American: the right to create freely, and to live out my faith without fear of government punishment or interference.”
Notice Stutzman's statement claims losing the case will "take away my life’s work and savings."
In 2015 Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson offered to settle with Stutzman for that $2000. She refused.
"Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about," Stutzman wrote in her response to State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. "It’s about freedom, not money. I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important."
Attorney General Ferguson made clear he wasn't out to bankrupt Stutzman, as NCRM reported.
“My primary goal has always been to bring about an end to the Defendants’ unlawful conduct and to make clear that I will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” AG Ferguson said in a statement.
The case escalated. She was then offered an even better deal: $1001.
But along the way, Waggoner has repeatedly made statements like this – which the right wing media has been only too happy to repeat.
Here she is in an ADF video:
Fox News, in 2016: "The 70-year-old Stutzman is now at risk of not only losing her business but also losing her life savings and personal retirement assets."
"Barronelle Stutzman is now going to lose her business, her life savings, and possibly her own home for putting her faith into practice," Fox News' Erick Erickson claimed, incorrectly, in 2015.
In a 2015 Christian Post article, Waggoner made a similar claim:
"The lesson from the court's decisions is that you put your home, your family business, and your life at risk by daring to defy a government mandate that forces you to promote views you believe are wrong," Waggoner, an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement.
And in a memo advising against a Pennsylvania ordinance, ADF claimed "the government seeks to punish Barronelle because she declined to violate her religious beliefs about marriage. Now she might lose her businesses, her life-savings, and everything she owns simply because she believes that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and that her faith forbids her from celebrating any other view of marriage. Indeed, if she does not prevail in the lawsuit brought against her, Barronelle will be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the attorneys who have been prosecuting her."
It's absurd to claim "a government mandate" will force Stutzman to "lose her businesses, her life-savings, and everything she owns simply because she believes that marriage is the union of a man and a woman," when she was repeatedly offered options – or she could have shuttered or altered her business to comply with laws and ordinances of the state she chose to license her business in.
This same "religious freedom" argument was used to convince people there was nothing wrong with refusing service to Black people.
Have we not learned?
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