This article appeared in the Washington Post, and I though it might be good for us to find out what it is like when big government comes after you for taking the Bible seriously.
I’ve been a florist in Richmond, Wash., for more than 30 years. In that time, I’ve developed close relationships with many of my clients.
One of my favorites was Rob Ingersoll. Ingersoll came in often and we’d talk. Like me, he had an artistic eye. I’d try to create really special arrangements for him. I knew he was gay, but it didn’t matter — I enjoyed his company and his creativity.
Then he asked me to create the floral arrangements for his wedding. I love Rob, and I’d always been happy to design for his special days. But there’s something different about a wedding.
Every person in the creative professions regularly has to make decisions about where they lend their artistic talents and which events they will participate in. For me, it’s never about the person who walks into the shop, but about the message I’m communicating when someone asks me to “say it with flowers.”
I was raised Christian. In my religious tradition, marriage is a sacred religious ceremony between a man, a woman and Christ. It’s a covenant with the church. To participate in a wedding that violates those principles violates the core of my faith.
When Rob asked me, I thought about it carefully. I talked over the decision with my husband, and I prayed. But ultimately I know I had to stay true to my faith. I couldn’t do it.
When I told Rob, I felt terrible that I couldn’t share this day with him, as I’d shared so many with him before. I took his hands and said, “I’m sorry I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.” Rob said he understood, and that he hoped his mom would walk him down the aisle, but he wasn’t sure. We talked about how he got engaged and why they decided to get married after all these years. He asked me for the names of other flower shops. I gave him the names of three floral artists that I knew would do a good job, because I knew he would want something very special. We hugged and he left.
I never imagined what would happen next. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued me after hearing in the media what had happened. That was shocking. Even more surprising, Rob and his partner Curt, with their ACLU attorneys, filed suit shortly thereafter. A judge ruled against me, but this week, with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom, I appealed.
We’ve always heard that same-sex marriage would never affect anyone aside from the same-sex couples who wanted to be married. But a judge recently told me that my freedom to live and work according to my beliefs about marriage expired the day same-sex marriage became the law in my state.
Our government is supposed to protect our First Amendment rights — freedom of religion and expression. But the government is telling me I can only be a faithful Christian within the four walls of my church. That’s impossible and it’s unjust. What would Rob and Curt say if the government told them they could only be who they are in their own homes?
This isn’t about bigotry. I’ve had gay and lesbian employees and friends. And it’s important to remember that Rob was a long-time customer and friend despite our different beliefs about marriage. When I had to refer him for this one event, I did everything I could to avoid hurting his feelings and I believed we would remain friends when he left the shop. He got enough offers after this situation became public to do about 20 weddings.
In Washington, Rob and Curt have the right to get a marriage license. But that doesn’t mean that the state should be able to force people in the creative professions like myself to create expression celebrating the ceremonies. We all have different viewpoints about how to live our lives. One thing I’ve loved about our country is that we protect the freedom of artistic expression and the right to disagree over these kinds of issues without one side being threatened by the government over it.
But whatever the state says and however they want to try to punish me, they can’t change my faith. What happens in my business or my life is in God’s hands. Having a clear conscience means much more to me than any amount of money or my business. Rob and Curt have their beliefs about marriage and aren’t being stopped by the state from living them out. I only ask for the same freedom.
If you want to understand just how bad things are in the culture right now, read some of the comments to her post. Lots of non-Christians telling her that true Christianity consists in abandoning morality completely and celebrating whatever non-Christians tell her to celebrate.
Anyway, I definitely would not live in Washington State. But not all states are like Washington.
Here’s Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana:
Louisiana Governor and prospective GOP presidential candidate Bobby Jindal argued that to President Obama and Hillary Clinton religious liberty only means “you get to go to church and say what you want inside church” during a speech in South Carolina on Saturday.
Jindal said, “There was a time when the left believed in the First Amendment. There was a time when the left really understood that religious liberty is the foundation of our freedom of speech, and freedom of association…without religious liberty, there are no other freedoms like freedom of speech, and freedom of association, and freedom of the press.
He continued, “And make no mistake about it this isn’t just about marriage, though, unlike President Obama and Secretary Clinton, my views on marriage are not evolving with the polls. I continue to believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. This debate is much, much bigger than that. It is bigger than marriage. This is about the power of the state to to close or fine Christian business owners, this is about the left trying to silence us and telling us we don’t have a right to live our lives according to our sincerely held beliefs. When Secretary Clinton, when President Obama say, ‘you’ve got the freedom of religious expression,’ to them, that just means you get to go to church and say what you want inside church. That’s not religious liberty. Religious liberty is the ability to live our lives according to our faith 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Christianity is a whole life worldview. I want to be able to speak out in the public square for the Christian worldview, just like the gay activists can speak out for their worldview. That’s what the First Amendment is all about, after all. If I wanted secularism, I’d move to North Korea. Unfortunately, we seem to be headed in that direction.