Religious Freedom for All?
Since the U.S. Supreme Court redefined marriage with its ruling on Obergefell vs. Hodges, much uncertainty has existed over how this affects the religious freedom of those in the wedding industry. Do photographers, calligraphers, videographers, bakers, and florists have the right to not participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony if they feel it conflicts with their deeply held religious beliefs?
This is a question being determined by courts from the state level to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The First Amendment of the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It clearly reveals that this right is not to be contained inside a church building or in private, but its protection extends to the public arena as well. As the first of the amendments added to the U.S. Constitution, it is evident that our Founding Fathers deemed this freedom as critically important and foundational to maintaining liberty. Nevertheless, it is continually under attack in our nation today.
However, this week brought good news, for the Arizona Supreme Court recognized that the First Amendment should prevail. The court ruled in favor of Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio. In response to these Christian artists, the court’s opinion argues, “Duka and Koski’s beliefs about same-sex marriage may seem old-fashioned, or even offensive to some. But the guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion are not only for those who are deemed sufficiently enlightened, advanced, or progressive. They are for everyone.”1
Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are for everyone.
Florist Barronelle Stutzman of Washington State continues to appeal for her First Amendment rights. For years, she happily provided floral arrangements to all of her customers – including those she knew were in same-sex relationships. However, when asked to arrange flowers for a faithful customer’s same-sex wedding, she lovingly explained that she could not participate in the ceremony due to her religious convictions. Since then, she has faced extreme financial loss as she pursues what she deems is most valuable: religious freedom.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop last year, it asked the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider its previous decision against Stutzman. Like before, the Washington court denied her the right of freedom of religion.
Kristen Waggoner, who represents Stutzman on behalf of Alliance Defending Freedom, points to the question that must be answered in light of the First Amendment and those who desire to live out their beliefs in the workplace. She asks, “Does the First Amendment permit the state to force Barronelle to use her art to celebrate a marriage that conflicts with her faith and even force her to attend and take part in such a wedding?” 2
What it boils down to is whether or not the government has the right to force someone to do something that stands in opposition to one’s deeply held religious beliefs.
We must continue to pray for justices across this nation who hold the power to determine the answer to this question.