The Wilting Flower of Liberty
Last week, a judgment in the case Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers was made that essentially declared an individual or business must be compelled to participate in an event against his or her will in the name of fairness. The state of Washington had created a law that established same-sex marriage as a legal union, and sexual orientation as a protected class, which forces any business to participate, upon request, in this marriage under threat of prosecution.
A business owner, who had a nine-year established relationship with her client, declined to participate in his same-sex marriage. She offered to provide premade flower arrangements; she offered to sell loose flowers for him to arrange on his own, she even offered to help find an alternate florist who could meet his needs. She simply did not want to participate in his event herself.
Rather than respecting her wishes of her personal right of free speech and religion, her client chose to prosecute her for her stances, bringing the full force of the law upon her which means the ruination of her business, her personal finances and her life.
When the United States was founded, there was one protected class: the individual. Previously, the different forms of governing had included protected classes either by birth into social order or financial ability. One had no ability to steer the course of his life by his choices or make his own opportunity without the threat of government punishment.
The Age of Enlightenment brought forth the recognition that individual sovereignty and religious tolerance were morally superior means for man to conduct his life than by monarchal edicts. Man had an inalienable right to self-determination ordained by his Creator. This was the essence of true liberty. The sole way to accomplish this freedom was to see that government should not restrict man, man should restrict government.
When the founders wrote the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the intention was not to control individuals in their practice of their religion. The intention was to curb government intervention in the free practice of individual expression.
In the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom Thomas Jefferson wrote, “…it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order.”
Jefferson goes on to include, “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship….nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinion or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess and maintain their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities”.
Later, after Jefferson became U.S. President, the Danbury Baptist Association penned their concerns of the establishment of a state religion. In his return letter, Jefferson responded, ”Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature would ‘make no law respecting an establishment or religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”
The natural right of the owner of Arlene’s Flowers has not been found to be in opposition to her social duties, as her business is not a social interaction but a financial one. Her decision to not participate in the wedding between two men, which for her is an activity that is against her religious belief, is not an overt act against peace and good order.
The plaintiff misused his status as a “protected class” as coercion for her to comply against her will. Sadly, the courts sided with him. This decision flies in the face of the very intent of the individual liberty our country was established upon.
Last reported, the defendant has decided to submit her appeal of the court’s decision to United
States Supreme Court. A previous case that was based upon similar circumstances was refused, and with every precedent case set in court, our ability to practice our religious beliefs in our daily lives grows increasingly restrained.
We must be active in publicly speaking out against these decisions that hinder our natural rights, before we lose them permanently.