By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - With its ivy-covered entrance and Teddy Bear bouquets, Arlene’s Flowers seems an unlikely spot to trigger a culture-war skirmish.
Until recently, the Richland, Washington, shop was better known for its artistic arrangements than its stance on same-sex marriage.
But in March, Barronelle Stutzman, the shop’s 68-year-old proprietress, refused to provide wedding flowers for a longtime customer who was marrying his partner. Washington state legalized same-sex marriage in December.
An ardent evangelical, Stutzman said she agonized over the decision but couldn’t support a wedding that her faith forbids.
“I was not discriminating at all,” she said. “I never told him he couldn’t get married. I gave him recommendations for other flower shops.”
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson disagreed, and filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers. The ACLU also sued on behalf of the customer, Robert Ingersoll, who has said Stutzman’s refusal “really hurt, because it was someone I knew.”
Among conservative Christians, Stutzman has become a byword - part cautionary tale and part cause celebre.
Websites call her a freedom fighter. Tributes fill Arlene’s Facebook page. Donations to her legal defense fund pour in from as far away as Texas and Arkansas.
“For some reason, her case has made a lot of people of faith worry,” said Stutzman’s lawyer, Dale Schowengerdt of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group.
Those anxieties have only increased, conservative Christians say, since the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and opened the door to gay marriage in California.
Taking a line from Justice Antonin Scalia's sharp dissent, Southern Baptist scholar Albert Mohler said it’s only a matter of time "before the other shoe drops" – and the high court legalizes same-sex marriage from coast to coast.
“Christians will have to think hard — and fast — about these issues and our proper response,” Mohler wrote on Wednesday.
“We will have to learn an entire new set of missional skills as we seek to remain faithful to Christ in this fast-changing culture.”
His fellow Southern Baptist Russell Moore put the matter more succinctly.
“Same-sex marriage is coming to your community.”
`The debate is over'
Well before the Supreme Court’s rulings, many conservative Christians said they saw the writing - or the poll numbers - on the wall.
Survey after survey shows increasing support for same-sex marriage, especially among young Americans. That includes many religious believers.
Most Catholics and mainline Protestants, not to mention many Jews, support same-sex relationships, according to surveys. The bells of Washington National Cathedral pealed in celebration on Thursday.
Even among those who oppose gay marriage, many think it’s a losing battle.
Seventy percent of white evangelicals believe that legal recognition for gay nuptials is inevitable, according to a June poll by the Pew Research Center, though just 22 percent favor it.
“The gay marriage debate is over,” said Jonathan Merritt, an evangelical writer on faith and culture. “Statistically, all the numbers move in one direction.”
Young Christians have grown up in a far more diverse culture than their forebears, Merritt noted, and many have befriended gays and lesbians.
Pew found that more than 90 percent of Americans overall personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, a 30 percent increase since 1993.
“It’s far easier to wage war against an agenda than it is to battle a friend,” Merritt said.
At the same time, many conservative young Christians say they’re weary of the culture wars, and of seeing their communities labeled “judgmental.”
When Christian researchers at the Barna Group asked Americans aged 16-29 what words best describe Christianity, the top response was “anti-homosexual.” That was true of more than 90 percent of non-Christians and 80 percent of churchgoers, according to Barna.
Tired of being told the country is slouching toward Gomorrah, many young Christians have simply tuned out the angry prophets of earlier generations, evangelical leaders say.
“The shrill angry voices of retrenchment are no longer getting a broad hearing either in the culture at large or in the evangelical community,” Merritt said.
But the battle over same-sex marriage is far from over, said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
“I don’t believe most Christians are going to give up the fight,” said Brown, who is Catholic. He said his movement includes many young evangelical and Orthodox Christians.
“And they are more energized than ever.”
Love thy gay neighbors
Energized or not, conservative Christians must prepare for the moral dilemmas posed by the country’s growing acceptance of same-sex marriage, said Moore, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“Is Your Church Ready for the Marriage Revolution?” Moore asked, while promoting a special session on homosexuality at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Houston in June.
Many evangelical pastors have seen homosexuality as a distant culture-war battle that’s fought far from the doors of the churches, Moore said.
Now, it’s as close as their front pews.
“I think it’s not so much that churches haven’t wanted to talk about it,” he said, “but they haven’t recognized how much the culture has changed around them.”
The first step, said Moore, is learning to defend traditional marriage without demonizing gays and lesbians.
Walking through Washington’s Union Station last Thursday, Moore said he saw several lesbian couples kissing in celebration of the Supreme Court rulings.
“If we can’t empathize with what’s going on in their hearts and minds, we’re not going to be able to love and respect them.”
Then come a host of secondary questions: How should conservative pastors minister to same-sex couples? Should Christians attend same-sex weddings? Should florists like Barronelle Stutzman's agree to work with gay couples?
`Don't give in'
Florist Barronelle Stutzman.
In the 17 years she’s owned Arlene’s Flowers, Stutzman said, she’s worked with a number of gay colleagues.
“It really didn’t matter if they were gay, or blue or green, if they were creative and could do the job,” she said.
Stutzman suspects that some of her eight children privately don’t agree with her on homosexuality, even as they publicly support her decision.
Online, Stutzman has been called a bigot, and worse.
She said she’s lost at least two weddings because of her refusal to provide services for the same-sex marriage.
Conservative activists say her case is the first of what will surely be many more, as gay marriage spreads across the country.
As she gets ready to face a judge, the silver-haired florist offered some advice for fellow evangelicals.
“Don’t give in. If you have to go down for Christ, what better person to go down for?”
Gosh, CNN, I am conservative and Christian, I face NO "moral dilemma"....have to love how the liberal media, in this case CNN, likes to make the bad guy the conservative, the Christian.
Let me ask the editors of CNN this question – is this all about shoving the LGT agenda down everyone's throats or is this just another well tuned attack on Christianity by a morally bankrupt media?
If there is a moral dilemma let me say that those who face it aren't conservatives, Christians.....The media now equates Conservatives and Christians – just another chapter in the media war on Christianity
Enjoy your persecution complex. What a load of hooey.
The moral bankruptcy is on the part of those so self-righteous and narrow minded that they'd try to impose their beliefs on others. If you're going to hate gays for being gay, the least you can expect is a return of that hatred.
No – the conservatives clearly did that all by themselves. In fact, it was the STATED STRATEGY of the Republican party to link Christian and Conservative; which you would know if you did some reading, Now that the strategy has linked them to a dying demographic and no longer works – typically want to blame others. Suck it up princess.
Guess what Jim in Florida, this is the CNN crowd and on here "religion" of any sort is the problem. It doesn't matter if you are conservative or liberal it doesn't matter how hard you worked to support gay rights, heck it doesn't matter if your'e part of the GLBT community. One tiny inscence cone lit in the name of a goddess and suddenly your'e "the religious right" in their eyes.
It is hilarious to see a christian try to stand on moral ground. Christianity itself is based on the immorality that is allowing someone else to take your just punishment. To be a christian, you must first allow jesus to stand for your sins, an immorality.
You have no moral ground christian, not until you renounce your immoral religion.
Gosh it must be rough having to have something besides Christianity stuffed down your throat. Get used to it buddy. The only way you are gonna keep congregations is if you start focusing on what Jesus said and stop bringing up every bit of the Old Testament that supports your inability to cope with reality.
Although You could continue to fill kids heads with rocks and tell them the world is 6000 years old and evolution and global warming are a hoax, but ultimately you are just preparing your kids for an insanely difficult life of denying what is supported by so much evidence,data, and fact (more convincing evidence than "it's in the bible" btw).
Do you consider Fox News "morally bankrupt" when it reports on news events that support your views? Personally, I oppose gay marriage. I believe it to be wrong. But, frankly, whether gays and lesbians can marry has no effect on my life or the practice of my faith. My faith is personal – between me and God. He will judge me for MY actions, whether I have lived MY life in accordance with the teachings of His Son. If, by example, I lead others to Him, I have been successful in spreading His word. If all I can do is condemn all those around me who have not yet heard His calling and try to force others to live by the teachings of His Son, I will not have been a good example. His eternal love is about love, not hate nor fear. The world around me needn't all be living in His grace for me to feel his love!
@ Richard Cranium – My response is according to Christians – this was the gift that God made in offering Jesus as a sacrifice. However it does not exempt humans, me included, from being responsible for our shortcomings, i.e., sins. Many times there is a problem with people who think, I'm forgiven so I can do whatever I want. Being called to live an obedient life which means a moral and ethical life is important. Living by faith will eventually lead everybody to a decision that will be impacted by what you believe. By the way, if you have a belief and that belief – believing in God as many allege to do – and it doesn't affect your behavior then your belief is nothing.
Yes I know the story, but that's all it is...a story, and in fact a retelling of stories from previous cultures. What is in the bible is men's rules, men's laws. There is nothing in there from any gods. If it truly were inspired by any gods, why is so much of it flat out wrong?
God gave us himself, in the form of a human, and sacrificed himself to himself, to "save " people from a threat he created in the first place. Twisted story, but it doesn't change the fact that in order to be a christian, you must first allow the character Jesus to take the punishment for your "sins"....isn't it a sin in the first place to allow someone else to stand and take your just punishment? So your first act to become a christian is to do something inherently immoral....you are right, beliefs are nothing, especially when if you add up all of the evidence, you believe in a complete and total lack of anything credible.
Who cares. 3 days in a row about this crap.
It would be a luxury not to care.
apparently you care since you commented.
@Matt – you don't have to read, post, or participate.
Just like the evangelical christian opposition to interracial marriages, the evangelical opposition to gay marriage will fail and fade into history.
Your response is not applicable to the article. Its not religion its not gay rights. The problem is violation of personal choice.
Sort of like Abortion.
I am in an interracial marriage and I believe the comment is highly relevant to this article. Fifty years ago in the state where I live, my marriage would have been illegal, and this opposition was justified by bigoted interpretations of the Bible. Nowadays no one thinks anything is wrong with my marriage or our kids. We are clearly experiencing the same cultural revolution with regard to acceptance of LGBT rights, and Christians who still discriminate against the LGBT community are out of touch and misguided for trying to impose their Bronze Age beliefs on others. Ironically inspired by the very Christian concept of love ("...love thy neighbor as thyself,"), and unimpressed with defensive threats of eternal damnation ("He that believeth not is condemned already..."), we are moving forward.
Re: "Conservatives face moral dilemmas"
The entire premise of this article is wrong. One must first have morals to have dilemmas about them.
Southern Baptists churches also do not allow dancing at weddings they officially sponsor. I would bet this woman has done flowers for hundreds if not thousands of weddings where there was dancing her church forbids. Nobody's forcing her church to do anything, she's administering prejudice just like a southern lunch counter owner in the '50s was administering racism by denying service.
From someone with a non-religious perspective on this issue. First off, I have zero ties with religion. As a matter of fact I can't stand religion. I have my reasons of why, but I won't get to those since this is about whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to wed. From my perspective I could careless what you people do. What I do mind is you flaunting your gayness as if you are rubbing something in on. Trust me, for us straight guys we find your actions as appalling as looking at someone taking a dump in the middle of the street. It's something we just don't want to see it. I really really don't care what you do to your bodies, I just think it's gross that's all. Just as you want people to respect your choices please be respectful to the ones that find yours on the side of gross. Why don't you all do what you do in the comfort of your own home. I guarantee you will not be persecuted there.
I find makeup disgusting. I don't know why, I just do. It's a gut reaction and I can't help it, just like you. But it would be absurd to suggest they shouldn't wear it out of respect for my aesthetics.
Maybe it's not about you. That's the point. You can probably live with occasionally seeing gays kissing. Don't you think?
So what you are saying, is that YOU are the one with the problem. Thanks for the confession.
First. If you're going to type something at least proof it before you post it. The phrase is "I couldn't care less" not "i could careless". The fact that you can't say it much less type it correctly show's your ignorance. Second, I think all PDA should be left to privacy. I suspect you woldn't mind seeing a couple of women making out in public. I'm sure that fires up your juvenile fantasies about what lesbianism really is. Third, heteros have been "rubbing it in our faces" for ever. If you think watching it is gross I have some advice for you: DON'T WATCH IT. Finally, I get that you have an oppinion, everyone does... but in the future, why don't you keep that private as well. You'll be less likey to shame yourself.
@Reyes: the "I couldn't care less/I could care less" nonsense has been analyzed by a linguist famous for his popularizations. He used this one as an example of supposed grammatical errors, which are not in fact errors.
Say the two phrases aloud with their usual intonation. One is obviously said with sarcasm, one is not. I won't try to convince you, but if you allow yourself to see what is in front of your face, you'll see that neither is incorrect.
Those with a tiny bit of education love to correct grammar in order to feel superior over those who are even less educated.
I just noticed: you made at least one grammatical error and two spelling errors (one possibly a typo, if anyone is inclined to feel charitable after your rant about "proofing"): it's "shows" not "show's", "opinion" not "oppinion" and "likely" not "likey".
Hee hee! If you're going to chide people for poor grammar, (1) make sure you found an actual mistake and (2) proof-read your own post VERY carefully.
I have to go now... someone else is WRONG on the internet!
I'm not a huge fan of public displays of affection, but my dislike is according to the "depth" of the pda involved, not the genders represented. I think a good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn't do it to yourself in public, don't do it to someone else just because you can. But that's just my preference.
When societies changes – and they always do – religious beliefs and norms are always the first thing to go.
Cause over time people get better access to education.
Religion requires ignorance to perpetuate.
I refuse to sell flowers to blacks. But I am a good Christian, really. I jus hate blacks.
And we know where the KKK came from ... southern baptists.
The KKK was about bringin' home the bacon and Sen Byrd was great with pork. Gud socie lib that he was. Now the barrel is worse than empty and everybody is a slave, except the PUblic Servants. They get paid enough to get fat.
I see above this article a gay Lutheran has become a Bishop. I suppose he can't be conservative based on what I'm getting from this article.
The term conservative holds no water here! I am perplexed? There are conservative who support marriage equality have spent millions to support it in NY State.
This is a sectarian issue!
Nothing to worry about . . . . all these people who deny their bigotry will change their tune when their pocket gets emptied by the lawsuits they will cause . . . . hit them in the pocket and they will change their tune. It is just like when science proves something that they can't deny, they then realize they either have to change their tune or look like complete idiots, although they do a very good job of that, without any help from science or the law.
We can't pick and choose which laws we are going to obey. If she has chosen to violate the law, she should be punished to the fullest extent. Be careful who you declare "culture war" against, and don't be surprised when people fight back.
She'd rather serve the child molesters.
this is all kind of weird to me
in my opinion:
the government has an interest in cohabitation because of STDs. the blood tests started because of venereal diseases like syphilis. but the marriage is, culturally, a religious artifact/sacrament/ceremony. the license itself should drive benefits, inheritence, etc.. any ceremonies should be left private and not part of a government regulation. after all, the 1st part of the 1st amendment seems to preclude it, or at least to protect everyone going their own way.
so, rename a marriage license a cohabitation license. if you pay the fee and take the blood test you get the benefits
if you want a religious ceremony, that should be separate. not part of the government rules and regulations
I don't think you mean cohabitation,unless you wantto arrest people for living together without a license. Based on your argument one would just go with "civil union" or something.
However, marriage has long been a civil insti.tution in the US, and in many countries around the world, has little or no ties to religious insti.tutions. It is religious marriages that are inconsistent, with some allowing divorce, some marriage at 13, some polygamy, some banning interfaith or interracial marriages while others allow these and same se.x unions. If anything should be renamed it is the religious ceremonies, with each church or temple naming it as they like to suit their tastes. Most people I know already call these specifically "church weddings" and "church marriages" using "marriage" as the legal term. If one is married in a church but has no marriage licennse they are rarely called simply "married" while a tripto the town hall is almost universally referred to that way. It's time for the religions to get creative with their own labels if they care that much.
That only works if you go through all the laws and change the word 'marriage' to 'licensed cohabitation'. That's a big task and would take a lot of legislation. How about opponents just put on their big boy pants and not worry about who is marrying who?
Fear of love is ignorance.
Fear of God is ignorance ,and foolish
True – history has shown the strength of the human spirit has always grown to embrace and love more.
Yet Chris, you don't speak for God.
You do not know me or what I speak of
The earlier post should read the lack of fear of God is foolish
Chris: We don't have to know you to know that you speak only for your version of the christian god, you do not speak for how every other christard views that god. Bigotry runs rampant in your belief system.
Chris: How does one fear something that there is no evidence for the existence of? Do you fear Santa or the Easter Bunny or Odin or Thor?
It's called faith. It's your choice to believe or not. Deep thinker?
chris, no one can choose what they believe. for example, ty choosing to believe you are an elephant. you won't be able to,
faith: The ability to completely ignore facts, logic and reason, and jump to a completely unjustifiable conclusion with a 100% lack of evidence.
If there was any logical reason to believe in supernatural things, there would be no need for faith.
"Does she only deny one sin or all of them?"
Why don't you drive over to her place of business and ask her, she's got the right to refuse to do business with anyone, doesn't she?. Or is this something else you want the government to impose on her.....next we need a divorce law revolution, in this country, that age old bs about division of property when one party does most of the "providing" needs to go the way of the dinosaurs.
No, she has no more right to and we do need government to step up to this.
She does not have the right to refuse business, she cannot refuse business to racial groups she finds "unappealing", she cannot segregate a dining room because some folks may feel uncomfortable around a particular minority. This is part of what the term "equal protection under the law" means.
She has the right to refuse to do business with anyone unless by doing so she's breaking the law.
I have a chopstick manufacturing company and I refuse to sell to Chinamen....just cus they are Chinamen.
So its your right to go out of business to uphold your principals of not selling to Chinamen, isnt it? The florist made recos for other florists, willing to give up business for her principals. Its her right to refuse to sell to anyone. If youre white, have you ever tried to get your hair cut by a black male barber? Good luck. He discriminates. So can this lady.
I'm a white guy and I get my hair cut by a black guy quite often.
Thank you, I will laugh now.
First post ever: the media force feeds liberal nonsense. I do not agree with gay marriage, but I do respect the pursuit of individual happiness. However, when your pursuit conflicts with someone else pursuit, why should yours surmount theirs? This is America...I thought? If you want freedom of choice, I think this woman deserves the same freedom. Feel free to comment
This woman has the freedom to follow the laws of non-discrimination. what if she had a sign saying: I choose not to sell flowers to Blacks, Asians, etc?
Hmmmm OK, I'll play the tolerant game. Let's see we have:
Bibles in every motel room
God on our money
Prayer before public events
Christian cable networks 24/7
Discounts on insurance for being christian
Churches every 6 blocks in every city over 100,000
Laws that prevent non-christians from holding public office
Christian bookstores in every town over 12,000
God in the Pledge of Allegiance
Christian billboards along the highway advertising Vacation Bible School and “Repent or go to He.ll”
Federally recognized christian holiday
Religious organizations are tax free
75% of the population claims to be christian
National day of prayer
God in the National Anthem
Weekday christian education for elementary students.
Christian clergy led prayer at Presidential inaugurations
Please, take the persecuted christian whine line somewhere else.
You can't refuse to serve "black" customers at your lunch counter; isn't pretty much the same principle involved here?
"However, when your pursuit conflicts with someone else pursuit, why should yours surmount theirs?"
Because your pursuit should not make someone else be unable to pursue theirs.
smhwhat?, just like women deserve the freedom to choose to have an abortion.
@Sybaris. It's coming. The assault on those items have already started.
@Wendy: possibly. Can you really complain if it does?
Referring to an equal rights AND legal issue (she broke the law) as "liberal nonsense" tells me all I need to know about you, thanks.
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4. ESV
"For the time will come when men will ... turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4. ESV"
lol, could the irony be any greater?
blah, blah, blah
If you knew anything about world and biblical history you would know that nothing has really changed.
Totally agree...this article compelled me to actually post something
How bout you grow some brains and learn that the bible is a load of scat.
Whose truth? Timothy never defines what that is....
Thank you Santex...we've known that Jesus will return. Will He find faith on the earth? Let's go to Jesus outside the camp–Hebrews 13. I do love the Lord my God, and I do love my neighbor as myself. But if I'm asked to choose, I choose Him.
Great scripture....For those who choose this lifestyle and who do not not believe in God, I take comfort in the scripture that reads...EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue shall confess that He is God.....Wheter you believe or not, you will bow before Him on that great day.
It's easy to make fun of something you clearly do not understand...It's your choice to believe or not. Stop pushing your filthy lifestyle on other people
how is this "lifestyle" being pushed on you?
are you forced to marry a gay person?
are you forced to have s-e-x with a gay person?
this is about equal rights.
@Chris: I'm not pushing my filthy lifestyle on anyone. In fact, I advocate NOT kneeling.
You have no idea what my lifestyle is. However, I will tell you one thing: I don't kneel, chant, surrender my mind and body to or knock on anyone's door on Saturday morning.
Did she say "Go down for Christ"?
Seriously though, many conservative Christians also opposed interracial marriage. Where in the Gospel does Jesus suggest we should be bigoted?
And, if you want to follow Old Testament marriage rules you will also have to consider owning slaves.
Enough foolishness. People love each other. Get over it.
Church leaders of all denominations that prohibit gay marriages need to start looking at the civil contract of marriage as completely separate from church approved marriages. A Catholic for example has no problem recognizing marriage as a contract between 2 people, period, while to be married in a Nuptial Mass in a sacramental marriage, and recognizing only marriages in the church. Before there was ever a recognized sacramental marriage, civil marriages existed primarily to determine the property rights to inheritance, so others in the community wouldn't have a say in dividing up the property of the deceased, be it land, a crop, or a kingdom.
Why do you want the gubmint "in charge" of marriage?? it'll lead to death, like 60 million deaths.
Regarding the sub-heading to this article: 'Conservatives face moral dilemmas' ... Being a so called 'conservative' in the USA today is a constant moral dilemma! Everything they stand for is contradictory to what the guy they claim to worship, taught, before people like them nailed him to a cross (or at least stood by while the Romans did).
I have to acknowledge their is a lot of hypocrisy on the religious right, where it seems any repeated behavior like lying can be forgiven without a clear intention to lie no more. However, the ministers, rabbis, imams, and priests are just human beings and are bound to have failures. They may stand in for Christ, but they are not Christ.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.