Thursday, August 13, 2015

WA A/G Ferguson Reacts Against Religious Freedom

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The Tri-City Herald reports, "Washington's attorney general has responded to Kennewick and Pasco city councilmen who've proposed resolutions asking him to withdraw his consumer protection lawsuit against Barronelle Stutzman and her Arlene's Flowers."

Ferguson wrote in a letter, "That won't happen."

City Councils in both cities plan to revisit the issue.

Barronelle plans to take the issue to the State Supreme Court.

The Tri-City Herald quotes Ferguson as saying, "It is my duty to enforce the laws of our state."

But the content of Ferguson's letter misrepresents the facts. It appears he is enforcing an ideology more than enforcing the laws.

He claims Stutzman is refusing to serve the 2 gay guys because they are gay. That's not true.

Stutzman has never refused to serve anyone "because they are gay." In fact, for years she sold flowers to the two guys now suing her. It was when they requested she provide flowers, etc. for their "wedding" that Barronnell declined.

As a biblical Christian, she believes in natural, biblical marriage---one man, one woman. She cannot celebrate so-called same-sex "marriage."

Ferguson represents that "Washington State law says that if a business chooses to provide a service to heterosexual customers, it must provide that service to gay and lesbian customers."

It does not. It says you cannot discriminate on the basis of race, religions, gender, veteran status, sexual orientation, etc. He is not only misquoting the law, he is misrepresenting its intent.

There are repeated misrepresentations by the attorney general.

The tone and intent of Ferguson's letter is revealing.

The position the attorney general is taking, and the tone in which he is using, strongly suggests the state is advocating a state religion with defined morals and mores---values and principles.

If personal beliefs are conformed to the wishes of the state, an individual is free to do business in the state. However, if an individuals religious beliefs do not conform to those religious beliefs of the state, they are not free to do business in the state.

William Bradford was fleeing that very ideology when, while sailing to the New World, he wrote the sermon that characterized America as a "shining city on a hill."

The Declaration of Independence was written to a king who agreed with the content, tone and intent of A/G Ferguson's letter to the city councilmen in Kennewick and Pasco.

This is the text of Ferguson's letter.

August 11, 2015 
The Honorable John Trumbo
Kennewick City Council
210 W. 6th Avenue
Kennewick, WA 99336 
The Honorable Bob Hoffmann
Pasco City Council
525 N. 3rd Avenue
Pasco, WA 99301 
Sent By Electronic Mail 
Dear Councilmembers Trumbo and Hoffmann: 
I recently reviewed your proposed Kennewick and Pasco City Council resolutions requesting that I withdraw the State's successful consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene's Flowers for discriminating against a same-sex couple. 
That won't happen. A Washington business may not refuse service to customers on the basis of their sexual orientation. As Attorney General, it is my duty to enforce the laws of our state. 
My office offered several times not to commence legal action, or to quickly end the lawsuit, if Ms. Stutzman would simply agree to stop breaking state non-discrimination law. After we prevailed in the trial court, my office sought only a $2000 fine and $1 for costs and fees. But Ms.Stutzman refuses to end this case. Instead, she and her attorneys are trying to convince the courts to excuse her behavior through a new legal theory, never before approved by any court in the United States. They claim that Arlene's Flowers should be allowed to serve those customers whom Ms. Stutzman's religion approves of, and exclude those whom it does not. Ms. Stutzman's theory is not the law, and it should not be the law. 
As the United States Supreme Court has long recognized, religious freedom is not the freedom to discriminate against others in the name of religion. Rather, it is the right to freedom of worship, and to be free from discrimination because of our religion. All of us should be able to eat in a restaurant, rent an apartment, or buy flowers regardless of how, or whether, we choose to worship. If I go to a restaurant with my young twins to celebrate their First Communion, I should not have to worry about whether the restaurant will refuse to serve me because we are Catholic. 
Our state law not only protects our right to be served regardless of our religion, but also our race, our gender, whether we have a disability, our status as a veteran, or whether we are gay or lesbian. Arlene's Flowers refused to serve Mr. Freed and Mr. Ingersoll because they are gay. As Attorney General, I will not stand by and allow that to happen. 
Let me be clear: No one is forcing Arlene's Flowers or any other business to provide services to same-sex weddings. Rather, Washington state law says that if a business chooses to provide a service to heterosexual customers it must also provide that service to gay and lesbian customers. In fact, Arlene's Flowers has chosen during this litigation to no longer provide flowers for any weddings - a service that previously constituted about three percent of its business. If Arlene's adopted that policy permanently, it would be under no legal obligation to provide flowers for same-sex wedding ceremonies. 
A business may have policies like "no shoes, no shirt, no service," because that policy applies to all customers equally regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other protected classification. But no court, anywhere, has ruled that religious belief allows a business owner to violate an anti-discrimination law. 
I encourage you and your colleagues to draft a new resolution - one that affirms the rights of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to live in a community in which businesses do not refuse them service based on their sexual orientation. Such discrimination is illegal - and wrong. 
Attorney General 
cc: The Honorable Steve Young, Mayor of Kennewick
The Honorable Matt Watkins, Mayor of Pasco
Kennewick City Council Members
Pasco City Council Members
Lisa Beaton, Kennewick City Attorney

If you disagree with the attroney general, call his office and respectfully let him know. His office in Olympia is 360-753-6000.

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