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Christian florist Barronelle Stutzman settles high-profile religious liberty case, retires

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KENNEWICK, Wash. – A settlement agreement secured by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys with the ACLU ends a lawsuit brought against floral artist Barronelle Stutzman nearly a decade ago without forcing her to act against her religious beliefs or to pay potentially ruinous attorneys’ fees — a threat she has endured for years.

Stutzman has chosen to retire so her beloved employees can run her business, Arlene’s Flowers. She will withdraw a pending petition for rehearing at the U.S. Supreme Court and make a payment of only $5,000 to the two men who sued her.

Stutzman, 77 and a great-grandmother, explained that she is at peace because the settlement allows her to finally retire with her conscience intact, and she knows that the legal effort to protect the artistic freedoms of creative professionals will continue in other cases that the U.S. Supreme Court could decide to hear soon.

“I am willing to turn the legal struggle for freedom over to others. At age 77, it’s time to retire” and let others carry on the fight for religious liberty, wrote Stutzman in a letter announcing the settlement. “I’ve never had to compromise my conscience or go against my faith. I’ve met so many, many kind and wonderful people, who’ve generously offered me their prayers and encouragement and support. And I’ve been blessed with outstanding attorneys through Alliance Defending Freedom who’ve given me not only their legal skills, but their thoughtful friendship.”

“Most of all, I’m thankful that God’s love has sustained me through all of the trials and challenges of these last few years,” Stutzman continued. “There is a great deal of division at work in our country today, but God has shown me again and again that His love is stronger than the anger and the pain so many are feeling. And He’s given me countless opportunities to share His love with others along the way.”

“This settlement is an end to a lengthy court case, not a change in or surrender of Barronelle’s beliefs,” said ADF General Counsel Kristen Waggoner. “Over the last eight years, Barronelle stood for the First Amendment freedoms of all Americans, even those who disagree with her about a deeply personal and important issue like marriage. And in so doing, she’s inspired millions of others in their own public and personal battles to live their faith without government interference.”

Rather than participate in a wedding ceremony that violates her faith, Stutzman referred Robert Ingersoll, a friend and client for nearly 10 years, to several nearby florists when he asked her about creating custom flower arrangements for his wedding to Curt Freed. Stutzman and Ingersoll then discussed the wedding plans, hugged, and Ingersoll left. He never filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office, which brought an unprecedented action against Stutzman because of news reports based on social media posts. Later, Ingersoll and Freed sued Stutzman through attorneys with the ACLU.

Stutzman asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take her case after the Washington Supreme Court ruled against her in June 2019. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated the state high court’s ruling and ordered it to reconsider in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in another ADF case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The state court then issued essentially the same ruling. Stutzman again asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the cases, but the high court declined to hear the case over the objection of three justices, resulting in her rehearing request.

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