Should the state be able to tear down a friendship by force of law?
We've talked extensively for some time now about Barronelle Stutzman's case before the Washington Supreme Court. We have typically asked and answered legal and societal questions.
Today, however, we look at this more personal question.
To answer our question, we'll look at how Jonathan Lange frames Stutzman's case for The Federalist.
From his post:
"Today, as I write, Barronelle Stutzman is standing before the Washington State Supreme Court. Her crime? Loving a man. Don’t get me wrong—this is not an erotic or romantic story. The man she loves is not a suitor or a lover, but a customer.
"Barronelle owns a flower shop in Richland, Washington. She worked in, and later managed, her mother’s business. In 1996 she bought it and made it her own. She doesn’t just sell flowers or pre-packaged arrangements. Any cashier could do that. She creates art. Her arrangements don’t come out of a book; they come out of her soul.
"Some people go to a flower shop because they lack imagination; others, because they are filled with it. Robert Ingersoll was one of these. He saw the harmony and unity, the balance and proportion of her art. He could be surprised by a focal point or a line, and be delighted by a texture or hue. He understood Stutzman and her art."
The personal angle isn't foreign to most of us (after all, it is absolutely personal that Stutzman may lose not just her store but her personal assets as well), but the fact that a law has been used against a friendship should give us all pause. If this isn't a demonstration of governmental intrusion into personal lives, then what does qualify?
Lange continues the story, picking up after Robert Ingersoll had asked Barronelle Stutzman to design and create floral arrangements for his wedding:
"Through tears and hand-holding, gentle words and sorrowful regrets, she explained that she could not grant this request. 'Could not' is the language of a heart captive to something higher than yourself. It is the farthest thing from 'will not.' Their conversation ended with a hug and hope. Tests of friendship can either end them or lift them to a higher level. Time would tell.
"Unlike other challenges to friendship, however, the power of government intruded into this one. You can’t be hauled to court for declining to condone an affair. But you can for this. Washington enacted a Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). Barronelle was told that she had violated it."
Government should be freedom's greatest protector, not freedom's greatest threat. When a friendship is dissolved or destroyed, that is a tragedy. Perhaps the most encouraging fact in this entire story, however, is how Barronelle currently talks about Rob:
"One could hardly blame Barronelle if she were angry and embittered. But she’s not. Blogger Monica Bonewitz-Boyer privately talked to Barronelle, and here’s how she describes the conversation: 'I then asked her how I could pray. Do you know what she said? She said, ‘Pray for Rob. He needs Jesus.’ She didn’t ask for me to pray for a win in court. She didn’t ask me to pray that she wouldn’t lose her home and business… She said pray for Rob.'"
That image of friendship and devotion, even in the face of potential personal and professional ruin, is something from which we can all learn.