Washington Florist in Religious Freedom Case Says She Chose Jesus Over Friendship

A florist prepares roses for Valentine's Day at a flower shop in Tirana, February 14, 2011. ((Photo: Reuters/Arben Celi))

Despite a two-year court battle that has threatened her livelihood, Barronelle Stutzman still calls the man who initiated the legal action "a friend," in a Seattle Times Op-Ed piece earlier this week.

While noting that recent events may have complicated the relationship, Stutzman said that "Rob Ingersoll will always be my friend."

"Rob and I hit it off from the beginning because, like me, he looks at flowers with an artist's eye," Stutzman wrote. "We see not just potential bouquets, but how different combinations and just-right arrangements can bring a special beauty, memories and even a little humor to someone's birthday, anniversary — or wedding."

Stutzman's piece follows an article written for the Seattle Times on Oct. 31 by Ingersoll and his spouse, Curt Freed, explaining why they sued the Richland, Wash., florist.

Stutzman is currently appealing the state's March 2015 decision against her "Arlene's Flowers" shop. The February ruling resulted in a $2,000 fine, a $1 fee, along with "actual damages" and attorney fees that will be assessed once all the appeals have been exhausted. She also was instructed that she must service future same-sex weddings. That decision came after the state offered Stutzman half of those penalties before the ruling, but she had to agree to service future same-sex weddings.

Stutzman told Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson that she could not accept the deal, saying to do so would be similar to Judas' traitorous actions against Jesus in the New Testament. She has consistently said that she does not discriminate against LGBT customers but simply will not participate in same-sex marriages.

Stutzman's attorney has previously stated that the currently unknown legal fees and potential future personal suits could result in her losing her home and business.

In the recent Op-Ed article Stutzman details her relationship with Ingersoll. She says she had served him for a decade before the wedding incident. She knew Ingersoll was in a relationship with a man, and he knew she was a Christian. Yet Ingersoll continued to come to Stutzman for floral help in regards to a variety of special events.

"If all he'd asked for were prearranged flowers, I'd gladly have provided them," she writes. "If the celebration were for his partner's birthday, I'd have been delighted to pour my best into the challenge. But as a Christian, weddings have a particular significance."

Noting the sacred nature of marriage, Stutzman said the request to service the wedding made her choose between her friendship with Ingersoll and her relationship with Christ. Though it was one of the toughest conversation she has ever had, she explained to Ingersoll why she couldn't participate in the wedding. He said he understood, and then she helped him find another florist.

As an artist, Stutzman says, "part of my heart would not really have been in what I was doing." She believes Ingersoll would not have been happy with the final product.

"This case is not about refusing service on the basis of sexual orientation or dislike for another person who is preciously created in God's image," Stutzman wrote. "I sold flowers to Rob for years. I helped him find someone else to design his wedding arrangements. I count him as a friend."

This article was originally published in Christian Examiner. 

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