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Hobby Lobby: What It Means for Arlene’s Flowers

The ink was hardly dry on the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius before the left trotted out their well-worn talking points about the “war on women”.

Don’t want to pay for her abortion?  War on Women.

Don’t want to pay for her contraception? War on Women.

The whole feminist movement used to be about recognizing that women weren’t dependent. But now it appears to have taken a bizarre u-turn to a place where a fundamental tenant of women’s rights is that women will be hopelessly lost if someone else doesn’t furnish accessories for her sex life.

If I were a woman, I think I’d be a little offended.

But since I am a apparently a chauvinist, I will just continue believing that women are capable of getting  their own birth control if it’s that important to them.

As one tweeter pointed out in response to the social media firestorm, “if you can afford a device to tweet, you can also afford $8 a month for your own contraception”.

How disenfranchising.

Regardless, the Supreme Court has spoken and family owned businesses can decline to pay for some things that violate their beliefs.

But in no way does this settle the much larger debate over religious freedom.  It’s important for us to understand how this decision affects the numerous other cases working their way through the courts.

One of the nation’s most significant religious freedom cases involves Arlene’s Flowers, a Richland, WA florist who declined to provide the floral services for the same-sex “wedding”.

Since Hobby Lobby is a business that was told they couldn’t be forced to violate their conscience, it would be nice if we could simply conclude that Arlene’s Flowers also can’t be forced to violate their religious beliefs.

But as is often the case in the world of law, it’s not quite that simple.

In the Hobby Lobby case, the Green family successfully argued that the contraception mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), because it burdens religious liberty without having a compelling reason to do so.

The problem for businesses like Arlene’s Flowers is that the Supreme Court, in Boerne v. Flores, ruled that RFRA cannot be applied to the states.  Since Arlene’s Flowers is being sued by Washington State, the statute that protected Hobby Lobby from a federal law is not available to protect a business from state action.Washington State could adopt their own version of RFRA and offer greater protections for religious freedom-as eighteen other states have done.

However, that idea was met with strong opposition in 2013 specifically because many legislators do not want businesses to have the freedom to choose how they operate.

In addition, the lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers has been brought under the Washington non-discrimination statute, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  There is no federal equivalent.

Of course Arlene’s Flowers does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.  She had knowingly and cheerfully served the customers involved in this lawsuit for nearly a decade and employed people with same-sex attraction.

But at this point, Attorney General Bob Ferguson does not recognize the difference between declining to provide a certain service and declining serve gay people generally.

Because of this, Arlene’s Flower’s cannot simply rely on the encouraging ruling from the Hobby Lobby case.

Unfortunately, many on the left believe the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation, which was invented 10 years ago, trumps the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion that has existed since the founding of our country.

Even more strangely, they believe it is a greater affront to personal freedom to ask Sally to find another florist than it is to force Jane to do something that violates her beliefs.

In any other context, this argument doesn’t pass the straight face test.

No one would accuse a tattoo artist who refuses to place a swastika on the arm of a client of imposing his narrow views on someone else.

So what can we do to protect businesses like Arlene’s Flowers in Washington?

The first thing you can do is call Bob Ferguson at 360-753-6200 and ask him to recognize the rights of business owners to exercise religious freedom and drop the lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers.

Then, you need to find out how your elected officials feel about religious freedom and the lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers. You can email them here.

If religious freedom matters to you, it needs to be an issue that determines how you vote in every election.

Remember, friends don’t let friends vote for people who sue grandmothers because of their beliefs.

In the end, politicians respond to their constituents or get replaced by the same.

It is our job to make sure the voices supporting religious freedom are stronger than those opposing it.

Yesterday was a good day for religious freedom, but it is up to us to make sure that there are more good days in the future.

Your contribution of $5 or more make it possible for us to protect religious freedom here in Washington State.

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