The Alliance Defending Freedom has a video on Barronelle Stutzman, the florist in Washington State sued for not providing services for a same-sex marriage. On Feb 18, 2015 a State Judged ruled that by not making arrangements for the service, Stutzman violated anti-discrimination laws, stating:
“On the evening of November 5, 2012, there was no conflict … The following evening, after the … enactment of same-sex marriage, there would eventually be a direct and insoluble conflict between Stutzman’s religiously motivated conduct and the laws of the State of Washington. Stutzman cannot comply with both the law and her faith if she continues to provide flowers for weddings as part of her duly-licensed business, Arlene’s Flowers.”
I want to point out two things about this. First, this isn’t the case of refusing to sell a product to someone. It’s a crucial distinction to make. Refusing to be engaged creatively with something against your conviction is different from not provided a material product to someone you disagree with. As the facts in the judges opinion noted, she was willing to provide flowers, but not do the arrangements herself. While flower arrangements might not be expressive as lyric, the parallel is demanding that a musician compose a piece celebrating something he or she disagrees with. (We have no problem when a musician asks a politician to stop using songs because of party affiliation.)
The second thing is that, as Stutzman explains, for Christians marriage is sacred. It is a sacred event. Christian weddings are worship services. For some traditions they are sacraments, in the same category as the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. In other words in a Christian understanding this is coerced participation in a worship service. Stutzman had provided services to one of the plaintiffs for nine years. She understands the difference between providing flowers for a birthday or valentines day and participation in what Christians understand to be a sacred ceremony.
There are attempts to reduce our first amendment right to the “free exercise of religion” into freedom of opinion or freedom of worship. But exercise, for any religion means that convictions must be lived out through real decisions. Whether that is through the decision to act, such as feeding the hungry, or a refusal to act, as in the case of conscientious objection to military service, the exercise of religion cannot be reduced to personal thought or private worship. When someone is coerced by the state into participating on a creative level against their convictions in an event they understand as worship we are in danger of losing even that emaciated understanding.