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SPLC Blacklists Pro-Family Groups; Norton Anti-Virus Blocks Access to Conservative Websites

A popular anti-virus software program used by millions of Americans has blocked access to the website of Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty advocacy group. It is the latest development in a political war being waged against pro-family organizations.

Symantec, the owner of the popular Norton anti-virus software, began blocking access to Liberty Counsel’s website two weeks ago. Internet users attempting to access the website are greeted with a message from Symantec explaining that “this website is categorized as ‘Hate’ and is blocked as part of this networks [sic] web content filtering policy.”

Why would Symantec tag Liberty Counsel—an esteemed religious liberty organization with ties to Liberty University, the largest Evangelical university in the world—as promoting hate? Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel’s founder and chairman, blames Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and its ongoing assault against organizations with socially conservative values.

Southern Poverty Law Center, which calls itself a civil rights advocacy organization, was founded in 1973 to monitor and litigate cases against white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations.

Although nearly all accounts of its founding acknowledge that SPLC started off doing good work in litigating cases against racist groups, their focus began to shift as the decades elapsed and white supremacist groups began disappearing. After involving themselves in an ACLU-led lawsuit to remove an Alabama Supreme Court monument celebrating the Judeo-Christian heritage of American law, SPLC turned its sights toward conservative Christian groups that advocate pro-family policies.

Because these family organizations support the rights of churches and small businesses to operate according to the dictates of their faith, and oppose same-sex marriage and legal prohibitions on conversion therapy, SPLC began adding them to its notorious “Hate Map” and pejoratively labeling them as “anti-LGBT hate groups.”

SPLC’s list of “currently operating anti-LGBT hate groups” reads like a ‘who’s who’ list of the conservative Christian movement: Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, American Family Association, American College of Pediatricians, Ruth Institute, and D. James Kennedy Ministries are all included on the list. SPLC also compiles “Extremist Files” on supposedly dangerous “extremists” like historian David Barton (Wallbuilders), pro-family advocate Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), commentator Bryan Fischer (American Family Association), theologian Gary DeMar, and evangelist Lou Engle (The Call and International House of Prayer).

Even mainstream media organizations like the Washington Post have published articles admitting that SPLC’s cataloging of mainstream, conservative Christian organizations and public figures in lists of “hate groups” and “extremists” alongside neo-Nazis, black separatists, and white supremacists is bizarre and farcical. In an article for National Review, Alex Torres mused that SPLC uses its hate group designation to “vilify” organizations that promote policies and positions it finds offensive “in an attempt to curtail free debate.”

The labeling also proved to be dangerous four years ago when an LGBT activist shot a security guard at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, D.C., because SPLC had identified the organization as an “anti-LGBT hate group.” The shooter planned to “kill as [employees] many as possible and smear Chick-Fil-A sandwiches in their faces.”

Despite the ludicrous and dangerous nature of equating pro-family organizations with the Ku Klux Klan, the FBI still considers SPLC a “partner” in fighting hate crimes. Charity and nonprofit watchdog GuideStar briefly used SPLC hate group designations in its public reporting on nonprofits earlier this summer, prompting a backlash from critics of the SPLC’s methods and lists.

Mat Staver says SPLC uses its hate group designation “as a weapon to defame” and “harm” nonprofits with which it disagrees politically. He believes the SPLC’s “reckless” and “defamatory” labeling “inflicts reputational and financial harm” to pro-family nonprofits like Liberty Counsel.

Staver’s account of the damage caused by SPLC designations seems to comport with the ongoing Symantec attack on Liberty Counsel. By blocking access to Liberty Counsel’s website, Symantec makes it harder for the religious liberty organization to spread its message and fundraise money.

Southern Poverty Law Center’s efforts to blacklist conservative Christian organizations seem to be working, at least for the moment. But they fail to realize that the most effective way to defeat other political ideologies and worldviews isn’t through blacklisting opponents but instead through the power of persuasion in the public square.


Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and research fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.


 

Planned Parenthood and the Media Should Stop Lying About CMP Videos

Come mid-July, it will have been two years since the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released their first in a series of undercover videos depicting conversations with high-level abortion industry executives. By giving the nation a peek behind the closed doors of the abortion industry, David Daleiden and his team at CMP have shifted the public discussion about abortion. Their undercover footage reached millions of people, many of whom were open to being swayed on the abortion issue, by giving them the opportunity to observe the depravity of the abortion industry for the first time.

For those who watched the tapes of Planned Parenthood and other abortion industry executives bartering over human body parts and speaking of crushing human skulls, there is little doubt that what the tapes show is evil.

With such damning video evidence showing their executives engaged in illegal behavior and nonchalantly talking about the horrors of abortion, Planned Parenthood knew it had to mount a defense. They couldn’t argue that bartering for human body parts wasn’t wrong and they couldn’t argue that the footage wasn’t real. They were left with only one excuse: they accused CMP of deceptive editing, a claim that has since been proven to be categorically false.

Two studies were done to determine the authenticity of the footage. One of the studies was commissioned by Planned Parenthood and conducted by Fusion GPS. The other was carried out by Coalfire Systems and commissioned by Alliance Defending Freedom.

Fusion GPS is an opposition research firm that has been used for partisan purposes by Democrats on multiple occasions, most notably when they produced a wholly unsubstantiated dossier accusing President Trump of performing unseemly acts with Russian prostitutes. Coalfire Systems, on the other hand, is a highly respected forensic firm servicing Fortune 500 companies and analyzing evidence in civil and criminal investigations.

While there is certainly a credibility gap between these two organizations, both firms definitively concluded that there was no evidence of audio or video manipulation.

The Fusion GPS study found that although there were cuts in the footage, there was no signs of edits or manipulation that would alter the meaning of the dialogue “[Our] analysis did not reveal widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation,” the report says.

Fusion GPS researchers cleared CMP of two specific accusations of audio manipulation made by Planned Parenthood and their allies. Roughly one hour and twenty minutes into CMP’s fourth video, a Planned Parenthood nurse off-camera proclaims, “It’s a baby,” while picking through the remains of a dismembered child. Planned Parenthood claimed that the interaction was suspicious, insinuating that their nurse did not actually say what the video depicted her saying. But Fusion GPS researchers explicitly refuted this claim in their report: “Neither internal nor expert analysis found any artifacts of editing in or around this segment that would suggest the audio was inserted or manipulated using technical tools.”

Similarly, Planned Parenthood accused CMP of manipulating the footage audio to portray a nurse as saying, “It’s a boy!” as she discovered the gender of the dead child. Yet their own commissioned analysis categorically rejected their claim: “Again, neither internal nor external analysis found evidence that CMP inserted or manipulated this dialog post hoc. [Our forensic expert] found the audio spectrum to be consistent and continuous before, during, and after this dialog.”

The Coalfire report was even more unequivocal in its conclusion that the videos had not been altered in any way that would mislead the viewer. They ascertained that the footage is “authentic and show no evidence of manipulation or editing.”  Additionally, while there were cuts in the footage, the edits were only of time spent “commuting, waiting, adjusting recording equipment, meals, and [for] restroom breaks.”

It is extraordinarily rare that two forensic studies, commissioned by political opponents and dealing with such a politicized issue, would come to the same conclusion. In addition, CMP released the full and unedited footage of all their encounters to show that their videos were not deceptively edited. It should have been a slam-dunk victory for the Center for Medical Progress. Why then do so many people still believe Planned Parenthood’s utterly falsified claims?

Planned Parenthood is not fighting this battle alone. Below are articles from prominent “mainstream” publications following the forensic studies which, as we just went over, were nearly unequivocal in their rebuke of Planned Parenthood’s claims of “deceptive editing”:

“Planned Parenthood videos were altered, analysis finds” -The New York Times

“How Planned Parenthood hoax avoids the Truth” -CNN

“Republicans Look to Punish Planned Parenthood Without Any Evidence” -Washington Post

“Planned Parenthood videos: Deceptive edits found by report” -Politico

“Why the undercover Planned Parenthood Videos Aren’t Journalism” -Columbia Journal Review

“Planned Parenthood to House, Senate leaders: Videos manipulated” -The Hill

“Planned Parenthood takes us inside the anti-abortion video editing shop” -LA Times

“Planned Parenthood Says Experts Found Misleading Edits In Videos” -NPR

Although the headlines are misleading, the articles from which they are pulled are even worse. Media reports like these have been so astoundingly inaccurate that purposeful dishonesty with the intent of protecting Planned Parenthood is the only reasonable explanation.

For all intents and purposes, these “news” organizations are public relations firms providing pro-bono service to Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. The shameless lying displayed by mainstream news seems to surpass that of Planned Parenthood’s own press releases. Even the usually reliable CNN host Jake Tapper cast aside his integrity to carry water for the nation’s largest abortion provider.

There is exactly zero justification for Planned Parenthood’s baseless accusations that the videos were misleadingly altered. Planned Parenthood’s own commissioned study discredits their claims. Anyone claiming otherwise is an intentional liar or a useful idiot.

Without social and alternative media, the truth about CMP’s videos would likely have been hidden from the American public. The information gatekeepers of traditional media have a small range of tolerable thought on the abortion issue, and they are willing to do what it takes to suppress the pro-life movement’s efforts to disseminate the truth about the abortion industry.


James Silberman is a guest contributor to the FPIW Blog. He is a pro-life activist from Gig Harbor, WA, and a student at Whitworth University.


 

Would the Johnson Amendment Have Stopped the War for Independence and Abolitionist Movement?

Had the Johnson Amendment been in effect prior to 1954, the American War for Independence and the abolitionist movement may have never happened.

The Johnson Amendment to the federal tax code prohibits nonprofit, tax-exempt entities from participating in, or intervening in, “any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” This prohibition includes “the publishing or distributing of statements” on behalf of candidates, legislation, or political parties.

The amendment was originally proposed by Texas Senator (and future President) Lyndon B. Johnson to silence and retaliate against the nonprofit political organizations that had been created to support his primary opponent. It was passed in 1954 by a unanimous voice vote without debate.

Although Congress never intended to include churches in the prohibition, “the I.R.S. has steadfastly maintained that any speech by churches that the IRS could construe as supporting or opposing candidates for government office, including sermons from the pulpit, can result in loss of tax exemption,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom.

The Johnson Amendment has had a chilling effect on American churches. Radical atheist organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have mounted public relations campaigns to intimidate churches and pastors. Not only do they spread misinformation about what churches and pastors can/cannot do regarding political involvement, but they have also reported to the IRS those churches who refused to remain silent about issues relating to government.

However, American pulpits have not always been censored by the federal government. Before the enactment of the Johnson Amendment, churches and pastors used their moral authority to speak prophetically to members and the culture about political issues.

From colonial times until the twentieth century, American churches often used their trusted social position to proclaim the Bible’s truth about issues being debated in public.

For example, pastors would frequently endorse or oppose specific candidates for public office, and they shared with their congregations whether a piece of legislation or a candidate’s positions were compatible with biblical principles. Pastors also commonly preached “Election Sermons,” which were given in the audience of public officials to exhort them to govern according to God’s truth and design for society.

Recognizing that a faithful exposition of God’s Word demanded that they preach about political issues, churches and pastors spoke into the civil arena and helped shape the American political debate for centuries. Perhaps this is no more apparent than the indispensable role churches played in the War for Independence, the abolition movement, and early civil rights movements.

John Adams, himself a central figure in the independence movement and the early republic, pointed to the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Mayhew as having had a “great influence in the commencement” of the American War for Independence. Like many of his contemporaries, Mayhew preached and published sermons that seemed to “revive… animosity against tyranny in church and state.”

It was in church that early Americans learned of their inalienable rights and the proper jurisdiction and role of civil government. According to Adams, the Spirit of 1776 ripened, in part, because “the pulpits thundered!”

Leading up to the Civil War, churches also played a key role in the movement to abolish slavery. Quakers, Wesleyans, American Baptists, Congregationalists, and some Methodists stridently opposed the peculiar institution and mobilized political and social efforts against it, with their churches serving as the center of the action. Churches comprised many of the stops along the “Underground Railroad,” offering their sanctuaries as hiding places for those escaping slavery.

It is no wonder that the abolition of slavery came on the heels of the Second Great Awakening, an Evangelical religious revival during the early nineteenth century that stressed the importance of a personal relationship with Christ and propelled efforts to reform society according to biblical precepts.

Imagine if the Johnson Amendment had been around during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Would American churches have assumed their role as agents of social change in the movements for independence, abolition, and civil rights if their free speech had been muzzled by the federal government?

Churches and pastors have a biblical obligation to share biblical positions on political issues with their members and their communities. Throughout this nation’s history, churches have acted as champions of justice.

Although President Trump campaigned on “totally destroying” the Johnson Amendment, his religious liberty executive order last month failed to make any substantive changes to IRS policy. The ACLU called the executive order a “faux sop to religious conservatives” and an “elaborate photo-op” that “does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process.”

It is time to stop censoring the constitutionally protected religious speech of American pulpits. Pastors who preach and uphold the entirety of the Bible should no longer have to fear the IRS. Congress should not wait any longer to begin the process of repealing the Johnson Amendment.


Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and research fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.


Religious Liberty Executive Order Good First Step

Affirming that our liberties are a gift of God that no government can rightfully take away, President Donald Trump today signed the long-awaited executive order on religious liberty.

The executive order has two main components. First, it directs government officials to consider changing regulations to allow conscience-based objections to the contraceptive mandate, which requires insurance plans to cover contraceptives and abortifacients.

Second, it instructs federal agencies to avoid penalizing tax-exempt organizations, including churches, that “speak about moral or political issues from a religious perspective.”

Speaking to the press in the White House Rose Garden before signing the executive order, the president reiterated his belief that “for too long, the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith, bullying and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs.”

While there is hope that today’s executive order will be a first step to restoring religious liberty, there remain grave threats to the fundamental freedom to live according to the dictates of one’s faith and conscience.

Joseph Backholm, President of FPIW, says he is “cautiously optimistic” about the executive order, calling it “a step in the right direction.”

Backholm hopes the executive order will be used by federal agencies to “develop comprehensive rules protecting religious liberties.”

Some religious liberty advocates, including the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson, expressed their concern that the executive order fails to make substantive reforms protecting religious liberty. In a press release today, Alliance Defending Freedom President Michael Ferris said the executive order amounts to “vague instructions to federal agencies [that] simply leaves them wiggle room to ignore [the] gesture.”

A draft of the executive order released in February included far greater protections for religious liberty. That draft protected the rights of those—including federal employees, religious organizations, and some businesses—who believe in traditional marriage and the traditional conception of two genders, male and female. These protections were not included in the executive order signed today.

“Our founding fathers believed that religious liberty was so fundamental that they enshrined it in the very first amendment of our great and beloved constitution,” President Trump said in the Rose Garden press conference today. “No American should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenets of their faith.”

On that, Mr. President, we wholeheartedly agree.

Washington AG Bob Ferguson Joins Effort to Punish Freedoms of Thought, Speech

 

After months of political posturing, the targeted attack by several attorneys general against the free speech and free association rights of public policy organizations and private companies has ended. But the fight to preserve free speech rights is not over.

In March, attorneys general from fifteen states, including Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, joined with attorneys general from the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands to punish organizations that they claim have spread misinformation about the existence and consequences of global warming.

Known as Attorneys General United For Clean Power, the group is “dedicated to coming up with creative ways to enforce laws being flouted by the fossil fuels industry and their allies in their short-sighted efforts to put profits above the interests of the American people and the integrity of our financial markets,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at the coalition’s inauguratory press conference, in which the attorneys general were joined by climate change propagandist and former Vice President Al Gore.

The group blames man-caused climate change for more violent storms and receding ice shelves in the Arctic, despite studies from reputable scientists that climate change is not causing extreme weather and that the polar ice caps have not receded since 1979, the first year NASA satellite data was collected.

“We have heard the scientists,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “There is no dispute [about global warming], but there is confusion – confusion sown by those with an interest in profiting from the confusion and creating misconceptions in the eyes of the American public.”

Shortly after the formation of the coalition, U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker served subpoenas on Exxon and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think-tank that does climate research.  It has published studies critical of climate change.

The subpoena demanded ten years of communications, research, and, perhaps most worrisomely, donor information. CEI President Kent Lassman called the subpoena a “baseless fishing expedition” and a “flagrant violation” of the First Amendment.

Thankfully, Attorney General Walker recently withdrew his subpoenas. CEI is seeking court-imposed sanctions against the attorney general.

Many are concerned that the inquisition mounted against certain political ideologies will create a chilling effect on public policy organizations. It is likely that think tanks, academics, and policymakers will think twice before conducting research and publishing studies and policy recommendations that contradict politically correct narratives.

There is little disagreement among legal scholars that research published by think tanks is constitutionally protected speech. The free exchange of ideas that is promoted by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is necessary for a constitutional republic. The use of persuasion in open public discourse allows for the best ideas to supersede bad ideas.

Despite an entire apparatus of schools and media outlets that disseminate global warming propaganda, climate alarmists are losing the debate in the public square. Less than half of Americans believe the government should be doing more to mitigate climate change, and the number of Americans who believe climate change is a serious problem is declining.

Not content with using persuasion to win arguments, Attorneys General United for Clean Power decided to use the force of law to criminalize the viewpoints of their political opponents.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is well-acquainted with using the force of law to subdue those with whom he disagrees. Ferguson has been embroiled in a legal battle with Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington florist who declined to provide her creative services for a same-sex wedding ceremony. He also filed an amicus brief in the lawsuit against an Olympia pharmacy that declined to dispense abortifacients.

“While Ferguson may be sincerely concerned about climate change, the idea of the attorney general filing lawsuits against people who have different perspectives is highly problematic,” said FPIW’s Executive Director Joseph Backholm. “We should all be concerned about the instinct of our elected officials to say there is only one, absolute, infallible position on these issues that is above critique.”

It remains to be seen what will be the next steps of Attorneys General United for Clean Power.  Though Competitive Enterprise Institute and Exxon won the first battle, the attorneys general have now paved the way for using the legal system to silence people with opposing views. That should be concerning to every American who values our fundamental rights.

Mississippi Affirms Religious Freedom with Passage of Freedom of Conscience Act

 

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has signed into law HB 1523, the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.”

“This bill only prohibits government from interfering with people of faith who are exercising their religious beliefs … in matters of marriage,” Governor Bryant said following the addition of his signature to the bill.

Many examples of government-led discrimination have been covered in the past few years, most notably, the cases of Barronelle Stutzman in Richland, Washington, and Melissa Klein in Oregon.  Both cases saw the defendant punished by state authorities after declining to violate their religious beliefs and lend their services to a ceremony they didn’t want to participate in.

The bill passed in Mississippi specifically prohibits the government from taking such action against small business owners.

“This new law gives fresh momentum to efforts on the federal and state level to stop government discrimination against people who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Tony Perkins, President of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council.  “No person should be punished by the government with crippling fines, or face disqualification for simply believing what President Obama believed just a few years ago, that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”

For several months, big business and Hollywood have bullied state and local governments who have fought to protect conscience, as well as governments who have debated common-sense regulations of public locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms.  But unlike Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the leadership in Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas has chosen to maintain state sovereignty and defend the fundamental freedom of their citizens to believe and live according to those beliefs.

We stand with Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant to protect the rights of conscience for all!

WA Pharmacy, Pharmacists Will Appeal 9th Cir. Ruling that Forces Them to Violate Their Beliefs

 ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM COMMENT
July 23, 2015 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT ADF MEDIA RELATIONS: (480) 444-0020 or 
www.adfmedia.org/home/contact

 

The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Vice President of Legal Services Kristen Waggoner regarding the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s decision Thursday in Stormans v. Wiesman to uphold Washington Board of Pharmacy rules that force pharmacists to dispense drugs contrary to their conscience instead of allowing them to refer customers to other pharmacists as they are allowed to do in all 49 other states:

“No one should be forced to choose between their religious convictions and their family businesses and livelihoods, particularly when the state allows referrals for just about any other reason. The premier medical and pharmaceutical associations all support the right of a provider to refer patients, and all other states allow such referrals. This decision will affect many facilities within the state, including Catholic hospitals and pharmacies, which have made clear they will not dispense these drugs. As the district court noted, drugs like Plan B and ella are widely accessible within the state. In fact, no woman anywhere in Washington has been denied timely access to these drugs for religious reasons. We will appeal this ruling.”

The following quote may be attributed to Stormans, Inc., President Kevin Stormans regarding the 9th Circuit’s decision:

“The state allows pharmacies to refer for all kinds of reasons. In practice, it only bans religiously motivated referrals. With 33 pharmacies stocking the drug within five miles of our store, it is extremely disappointing that the court and the state demand that we violate our conscience or lose our family business. All we are asking is to be able to live out the beliefs that we hold, as Americans have always been able to do, and to be able to refer patients for religious reasons, as the medical and pharmaceutical associations overwhelmingly recommend.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building,
non-profit legal organization that advocates for the
right of people to freely live out their faith.

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Christian Ministries: How to Protect Them From Lawsuits

Are you a pastor or ministry leader?  Are you unwilling to compromise your beliefs about marriage, gender, and sexuality but concerned about the legal liabilities that might result?

If that’s you, we want to help.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision to redefine marriage for the entire country has many pastors and ministries leaders worried about how this will impact their ministry.  And for good reason.  During arguments before the Supreme Court, U.S. Solicitor General said that maintaining tax exempt status is “going to be an issue” for non-profits that hold to the natural and historical understanding of marriage.

While there is risk in a changing world, there are also steps you can take to protect the ministry you care about from lawsuits.

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Alliance Defending Freedom published a small booklet titled Protecting Your Ministry From Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Lawsuits with the sole purpose of equipping pastors, ministry leaders and Christian school faculty with the necessary tools to better protect their churches, ministries, or schools.

The Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW) is taking this booklet one step further. FPIW is setting up meetings all over Washington State to help pastors and ministry leaders better protect their ministry from future sexual orientation and gender identity lawsuits. These meetings will be based on ADF’s Protecting Your Ministry booklet, but will also discuss how to be more proactive in the legislative process in Washington State.

 

Topics Include:

  • Statement of Faith
  • Religious Employment Criteria
  • Formal Membership Policy
  • Marriage Policy
  • Facility Use Policies
  • Religious Mission Statement
  • Code of Christian Conduct
  • And Much More

 

These meetings are free! All we ask is that you let us know if you are planning on attending (register here).

Several meetings are scheduled, but more dates and times will be announced in the following cities in the near future.  Click here to see if any meeting will be in an area near you.

If you are interested in hosting a Protect Your Ministry meeting in your community, let us know.  We’d love to work with you!

 

Ruling: Owner of Arlene’s Flowers Can Be Personally Liable

Yesterday, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Eckstrom ruled that Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, can be held personally liable in lawsuits that resulted from Arlene’s Flowers decision not to decorate for a same-sex ceremony.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the first lawsuit against the Richland grandmother but a second lawsuit was later filed by the ACLU on behalf of the customers. The lawsuits were brought not only against Arlene’s Flowers but also against Barronelle Stutzman personally.

Lawyers for Mrs. Stutzman had argued that it was inappropriate to sue her personally because it was a decision made in the operation of her business, but Judge Eckstrom disagreed.

As a result of this decision, the government can go after both the business assets of Arlene’s Flowers and personal assets of Barronelle Stutzman to collect attorney’s fees should their lawsuits prevail.

Responding to the ruling, Kristen Waggoner, an Alliance Defending Freedom Attorney for Barronelle Stutzman and Arlene’s Flowers said, “In America, the government is supposed to protect freedom, not intimidate citizens into speaking and acting contrary to their faith under threat of severe punishment.  The government is sending a clear message to Barronelle and the people of Washington: dare to disagree with the government, and you put your home, your family business, and your life savings at risk.”

Judge Eckstrom is expected to rule on a summary judgment motion in the next week.

Trial is currently scheduled for March 23rd.

The narrow question of personal liability in a specific lawsuit is not itself a conspiracy against conscience rights and religious freedom.

However, there is little doubt that the government’s ability to go after the personal assets of business owners who prefer not to be part of certain events will continue to chill the free exercise of religion that until recently was celebrated and protected in America.

Whatever the outcome of this specific case, the real solution is a state legislature that respects a marketplace of ideas that makes room for people of different backgrounds, faiths, and perspectives.

But the legislature won’t act unless the public insists on it.

If you are concerned that the government is suing grandmothers because of their beliefs about marriage and sexuality, please contact your state legislators and ask them to support protections for conscience rights and religious freedom. Then encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Every American is guaranteed the freedom to live and work faithfully.

The Washington State Attorney General is working hard to change that.

Don’t let him win.

What It If Was Your Grandma?

Next Friday, December 19th, at 1:30 pm, at the Benton County Superior Courthouse in Kennewick, Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, will be in court. Along with lawyers from Alliance Defending Freedom, Barronelle will be defending herself against the lawsuit brought against her by Attorney General Bob Ferguson because she declined to decorate for a same-sex “wedding”.

The trial will begin early next year. Whatever the outcome of that trial, it is almost certain to be appealed. This case will likely not be over anytime soon.

But right now, they are deciding preliminary matters.

When the Attorney General Bob Ferguson decided to start suing grandmothers because of their beliefs about same-sex “marriage”, he did something unusual. He sued both Arlene’s Flowers as a business and Barronelle Stutzman personally.

If you’re not a lawyer, or if you’ve never been sued, the significance of this might not be immediately obvious. But it is significant.

If you buy a car that explodes because of a design defect, you would sue the company that made the car. You would not, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, sue the families who own stock in that car company.

One of the primary reasons to create a separate legal entity for a business is to protect the personal assets of the owners from the liabilities of the business.

Well, Bob Ferguson apparently thinks this case is exceptional, because he sued both the company (Arlene’s Flowers) and its owner (Barronelle Stutzman).

The significance of this will be felt in the event Mrs. Stutzman loses her lawsuit.

In lawsuits, the winner often collects legal fees.

In this case, the Attorney General’s Office would almost certainly try to be reimbursed for the expenses it incurred.

Since this case is likely to last years, you can be certain that the expenses will be several hundred thousand dollars.

But not all defendant’s have hundreds of thousands of dollars laying around in the event they lose a lawsuit, which is why, if you are suing someone, it’s helpful to have multiple defendants.

By suing both Arlene’s Flowers and Barronelle Stutzman, Bob Ferguson could not only seize all the company’s assets and bankrupt her business but, if the entire legal bill was not paid by the business assets, he could also go after the Stutzman family as well. He could take her house, her cars, her retirement, even her wedding ring.

Will he do that? Who knows. But having the option is the reason he sued her personally as well as her business.

Whether this is appropriate is one of the pre-trial issues that is being argued.

I hope reading about this bothers you.

For all that we think we’ve learned about tolerance and bigotry, this case just shows that it never actually goes anywhere, it just takes different forms.

I hope it bothers you enough to show up at the courthouse in Kennewick next Friday at 1:30 and support Barronelle Stutzman.

If you’re a pastor, show up and encourage your church to join you.

I hope it motivates you to call some friends and take them with you. I hope it motivates you to make a (respectful) phone call to Bob Ferguson’s office at 360-753-6200 and ask him to drop this lawsuit.

If we don’t intervene, she might lose everything she has because of what she believes about marriage.

We are all Barronelle Stutzman.

The legislature could act immediately to eliminate the basis of this lawsuit.

Why haven’t they?

Some of them like what is happening. They want people who disagree with them about marriage to lose their business and home for refusing to celebrate their sexuality with them.

But even those who don’t like it say they aren’t hearing from the public that they care about this issue.

That needs to change.

So right after you call Bob Ferguson, call your legislators at the legislative hotline 1-800-562-6000 and tell them to protect Arlene’s Flowers and the conscience rights of businesses. Then make plans to visit them in their office and tell them they need to start sticking up for grandmothers who are being bullied by the state.

Then show up at the courthouse next Friday, December 19th at 1:00. Let’s make a statement and show the judge and Attorney General how concerned we are by having 500 people showing up in favor of marriage, conscience rights, Arlene’s Flowers, and Barronelle Stutzman.

Silence is consent. Let’s stop being silent.

What if it was your grandma?