Yes, we've written about this before. Today, however, we have what we take to be the best presentation of the arguments in defense of the freedom of conscience that Barronelle Stutzman has (and that should be protected).
From Jim Campbell, writing at The Daily Signal:
"We’re not talking about business owners refusing to provide someone a mundane, unexpressive product—like a meal or a box of laundry detergent—because they dislike that person’s race, religious, or sexual orientation. We’re talking about compelling people to use their artistic talents to create messages or actively participate in expressive events that they cannot in good conscience support.
"Imagine that you’re a black citizen living in America, that you worked hard to build a profitable marketing company, and that you’ve developed successful advertising campaigns for various black community groups. Now suppose that a white supremacist organization asks you to develop a similar campaign for their local chapter. You, of course, are happy to do work for white customers, but understandably will not create advertisements that promote a group whose goals conflict with your identity as a black man or woman. You are obviously not rejecting a customer based on race. You are opting not to promote an idea you reject.
"Or put yourself in the shoes of a Muslim who immigrated to the United States to avoid religious persecution and who later earned a degree in graphic design and started a small business. After seeing your best work online, a Jewish group asks you to create its website, which will include a page explaining why Jewish Old Testament teachings are correct and Islamic teachings are wrong. Unable to broadcast messages that conflict with the heart of what you believe, you refer the organization to another company.
"If you do business in Washington, you better keep an eye on your mailbox because, assuming that we can take Ferguson at his word, you’ll be hearing from him soon. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve overcome to get to where you are or how much this lawsuit will devastate your new business. Accommodation for your conscience has no place in Ferguson’s world."
We could of course continue to imagine all sorts of scenarios where the state of Washington would force Americans to violate their consciences.
Take, for example, the pro-LGBT Colorado baker who did not wish to promote a cake that had language with which the baker disagreed. By the logic of the attorney general in Washington, this woman should have been forced to bake the cake and decorate it to the specifications of the customer.
As Campbell points out, to force any American to violate their conscience would be a violation of their First Amendment rights:
"The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized that the First Amendment prohibits the government from forcing citizens to express (or help communicate) messages that they find objectionable. The government cannot force an individual to be an 'instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view he finds unacceptable.'"
This issue should cross party lines; nobody wishes to live in a world where anybody can, by threat of government punishment, force another to violate their conscience.
Read the rest of Campbell's excellent piece here.