By: Dan Bartkowiak
Living out your values has become a huge issue in today’s culture war – and the freedom to do so is taking a hit. Elaine Huguenin declined to photograph a same-sex ceremony. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has turned down her case, she is left essentially without her business and close to $7,000 in fines.
Others who live out their values are facing a similar result – Melissa Klein and Jack Phillips could not use their wedding cakes services to support a same-sex wedding. Barronelle Stutzman served flowers for various occasions to a gay couple for nine years but could not in good conscience provide an arrangement for their upcoming wedding.
What about when the shoe is on the other foot: Antonio Darden denied a haircut to the Governor of New Mexico Susana Martinez because the Governor believed marriage as the union of husband and wife. When the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – a group defending traditional marriage in court – asked a photographer to take staff photos, the photographer declined – citing personal beliefs.
A customer may be offended by the business decision, but everyone should have the right to not be forced to violate their beliefs. That’s why Gov. Martinez and ADF decided to go somewhere else for services. But when each customer that specifically asked Elaine, Melissa, Jack and Barronelle to perform their services for their same-sex wedding were declined, each response was filing a complaint or lawsuit – even with many other businesses offering their services.
These complaints and lawsuits came up not for walking into a business and being denied a birthday cake or a dozen roses or printing 4×6’s of a recent vacation. It was not about serving customers who are in a same-sex lifestyle. These complaints and lawsuits were brought up because a business owner declined to use their name in support of a same-sex wedding ceremony.
And the price of doing so has been steep:
With the lack of a Supreme Court ruling, Elaine is essentially put out of the wedding photography business and an order to pay $6,637.94 in fines.
Melissa had to close her small business, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, and move it into her home due to the court ruling that she violated the law. “We were asked to participate in something that we could not participate in [and it cost us our business].”
Jack, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, was told the same. He’s still trying to fight in court to save his business. “It’s just the wedding cake, not the people. Not the lifestyle. … We’d close down the bakery before we compromise our beliefs.”
Barronelle, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, is currently facing charges that include a fine of $2,000, donating $5,000 to an organization promoting LGBT advocacy, and agreeing to create floral arrangements for same-sex ceremonies.
What about the hair stylist or photographer denying service to an individual or group because they believe in traditional marriage? Or a photographer declining services for nude photos or gory still shots for a horror movie? Or a Mennonite CEO – a conscientious objector – being asked of his T-shirt making company to place war images on his product? Should these individuals be forced to violate their religious or personally-held beliefs through government or judicial mandates?
Or, in all of these circumstances, should we simply have the freedom to allow people to make choices that we personally may not agree with; to be free to live and do business according to one’s beliefs?
Especially for someone like Barronelle – she proved she will serve all customers by providing nine years of flower arrangements for the same-sex couple now suing her. After much prayer and discussion with her husband, she had to decide that she could not use her business to promote what is contrary to her beliefs.
Yet for Barronelle, and for Elaine, Melissa, Jack, and others – they face the ending of their livelihood just for living out their values. And it’s becoming the cost of a culture that is increasingly supporting the refusal of services to someone believing in traditional marriage but attacking anyone for denial of services to the ceremonial expression of same-sex marriage.
As one State Justice said in the majority opinion that ruled against Elaine and her photography business – “[She is] not trying to prohibit anyone from marrying. They only want to be left alone to conduct their photography business in a manner consistent with their moral convictions.”
It’s not extreme to live and do business according to your moral convictions.
Unfortunately, right now our culture is saying, “Live out the American dream – unless you believe a certain way. Then no dreaming for you.”
It turns tolerance on its head at the cost of our Constitution and freedom.