Baronelle Stutzman

No gay wedding flowers yet: Reporters puzzle over what Baronelle Stutzman ruling means

No gay wedding flowers yet: Reporters puzzle over what Baronelle Stutzman ruling means

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to toss the Arlene’s Flowers case back to the Washington State Supreme Court instead of ruling on it wasn’t all bouquets for Barronelle Stutzman.

Get this: the highest court in the land dodged making a decisive ruling for Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission several weeks ago, then proceeded to tell  judges in Washington state to take a second look on the Arlene’s Flowers case in light of the vague Masterpiece decision.

In other words, did government officials in Washington state show the same kind of negative bias against Stutzman's religious convictions that was demonstrated in Colorado? That's the point of logic that journalists had to figure out.

Living just east of Seattle as I do, I’m betting the Washington Supreme Court will make exactly the same decision they did before, then lob the case back onto the U.S. Supreme Court’s side. Looking at the local media react, KIRO radio said:

Three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of a Colorado baker to refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding, the court sent the similar Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington case back to Olympia for another look.

And according to Kristen Waggoner with the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that is working pro bono for the florist, Arlene’s Flowers owner Barronelle Stutzman of Richland is feeling “hopeful” about getting a second chance at the Washington State Supreme Court.

Waggoner explained to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that the decision essentially nullifies the Washington State Supreme Court’s previous ruling that Stutzman violated the Constitution in 2013 when she refused to do a floral arrangement for a gay wedding.

The Chicago Tribune had a better read:

After failing to fully resolve two difficult cases this term, the Supreme Court signaled Monday it was still not ready to decide whether a Christian shop owner can refuse service to a same-sex wedding or when some states have gone too far in gerrymandering their election maps for partisan advantage.

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Don't let the headline fool you: USA Today's story on Masterpiece Cakeshop case is a tasty read

Don't let the headline fool you: USA Today's story on Masterpiece Cakeshop case is a tasty read

When I started in journalism — back when cavemen and Terry Mattingly roamed the earth — reporters at major newspapers typically didn't write their own headlines.

They'd file their story to an assigning editor, who would give it a first read, ask questions, make revisions and eventually ship it down the line, either to another assigning editor or to the copy desk. It was not unusual for a handful of editors to handle a story — particularly a major one — before it hit the press and landed on readers' driveways before sunup.

The copy desk — often late at night — would check for grammar, spelling and Associated Press style errors. And at some point, a slot editor would place the story on a page with a headline that could be any number of lines and columns, depending on the ads around it.

Before the days of easy fixes online, the copy editors saved reporters from egregious and embarrassing mistakes in smelly black ink. But yes, sometimes, those same editors — under deadline pressure — came up with headlines that were, um, less than representative of what the story actually said.

So a common defense of the writer class to headline fails was: "Reporters don't write their own headlines." In other words, don't blame us!

Is that still true? In the web-first age, do writers still depend on editors to craft their headlines? In some cases, yes. But in general, it varies. So I have no idea who wrote the headline on the USA Today story I want to highlight today.

But I will say this: The newspaper's story on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case (click here if you somehow have no idea what I'm talking about) is interesting and informative.

The headline? Not so much:

Same-sex marriage foes stick together despite long odds


That's not really what the story is about. 

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As Supreme Court bites into same-sex wedding cake dispute, how to tell good media coverage from bad

As Supreme Court bites into same-sex wedding cake dispute, how to tell good media coverage from bad

What a busy day on the religion front for the U.S. Supreme Court!

Here's how Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post religion writer and former GetReligionista, put it in a public post on her Facebook page:

In case you missed it, the high court sided with a church in an important religious liberty case, it allowed Donald J. Trump's travel ban to take effect, and it will hear a case involving a wedding cake baker.

Oh, is that all?

Seriously, I won't attempt to cover all three of those major stories in one post. I'll save the Trinity Lutheran case and the refugee travel decision for another day. But I will take a quick bite of wedding cake and hit a few high points on media coverage of Colorado baker Jack Phillips.

Actually, on second thought, why don't I just keep it simple and stick to one high point? Because it's one that so many news organizations have such a difficult time grasping. And yes, it's one that will be extremely familiar to regular readers of GetReligion.

I'm talking about the specific way that journalists choose to frame the Masterpiece Cakeshop case (and similar religious liberty disputes, such as the one involving Barronelle Stutzman, the sole owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Wash.).

See if you notice a difference — however subtle — between the following two ledes today.

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With The New Yorker, you can have your cake and gain insight into flowers and same-sex weddings, too

With The New Yorker, you can have your cake and gain insight into flowers and same-sex weddings, too

If you've followed the religious liberty headlines of recent years, you're familiar with Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., and Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers, in Richland, Wash.

The New Yorker has a piece out this week that references both.

Now, if you're a regular GetReligion reader, you may wonder: Is The New Yorker even news? After all, our journalism-focused website avoids critiquing advocacy reporting and opinion pieces. The answer is that sometimes The New Yorker is news, and other times it isn't.

In this case, it is.

And it's good news. I'm not talking about the subject matter, mind you. I'm referring to the fairness and quality of the journalism.

In a Twitter post, LGBT Map described The New Yorker story as a "helpful overview of the high stakes in this case" (meaning, the Masterpiece Cakeshop case). And the president of Come Reason Ministries characterized it as "a fairly well balanced summary of the legal questions surrounding cake bakers & gay weddings." I agree with both of those tweets.

I'll highlight three things that struck me about this story, which contemplates whether the U.S. Supreme Court might take up the case of either Phillips or Stutzman:

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The Ivanka/Jared factor: Who's reporting on their clout and the faith connection?

The Ivanka/Jared factor: Who's reporting on their clout and the faith connection?

I was going through my daily collection of emails from the various media on Friday when I noticed something on the Washington Post’s “Daily 202” email blast about the documents President Trump doesn’t want people to see him sign.

Then there was this. Does anyone else sense a religion ghost here, as your GetReligionistas would put it? Read on:

Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared, both top advisers, also tend to be extremely uneasy with the kinds of socially-divisive executive actions that will offend their 30-something liberal socialite friends in Manhattan, whose cocktail parties they want to continue getting invited to. They killed a draft executive order that would have dramatically expanded the rights of people, businesses and organizations of faith to opt out of laws or activities that violate their religion, such as same-sex wedding ceremonies.

We’ve been writing about the often unbalanced news coverage of the Baronelle Stutzmans and the Elaine Huguenins and the Melissa Kleins of this world –- all of them people who’ve declined to assist at weddings of gay clients because of their religious beliefs. A major reason why a lot of folks voted for President Donald Trump was to put an end to such lawsuits. Are all these folks’ hopes going to be washed down the river thanks to Ivanka and Jared?

Why is this duo all that powerful? They've recently been criticized for not stopping Trump's reversal of Obama's transgender bathroom bill.

Let’s back up a bit. There was a lot going on in early February (Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Superbowl, the National Prayer Breakfast) when all this broke. The Nation magazine described the draft executive order here

A New York Times piece then explained how the order got killed:

WASHINGTON -- The two most influential social liberals in President Trump’s inner circle — daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner -- helped kill a proposed executive order that would have scrapped Obama-era L.G.B.T. protections, according to people familiar with the issue…

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Back to the Washington state florist: Was Stutzman seeking right to shun all gay customers?

Back to the Washington state florist: Was Stutzman seeking right to shun all gay customers?

To no one’s huge surprise, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled against Baronelle Stutzman for refusing to provide flowers for a gay friend’s wedding. Also to no one’s surprise, she (that is, her lawyers) immediately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which may get a new justice soon.

So what is the key question in this story for journalists striving to cover the actual arguments in the case? Once again, the small print in this story is that that Stutzman wasn’t refusing to serve gay people in all instances, like the Woolworth's lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights era. Instead, she was claiming the right to refuse to provide flowers in one doctrinally defined situation -- a marriage rite.

But did mainstream news reporters make that crucial distinction?

In almost all cases the answer is "no." We’ll start with what the Seattle Times said:

A Richland florist who refused to provide flowers to a gay couple for their wedding violated anti-discrimination law, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The court ruled unanimously that Barronelle Stutzman discriminated against longtime customers Rob Ingersoll and Curt Freed when she refused to do the flowers for their 2013 wedding because of her religious opposition to same-sex marriage. Instead, Stutzman suggested several other florists in the area who would help them.
“We’re thrilled that the Washington Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. The court affirmed that we are on the right side of the law and the right side of history,” Ingersoll and Freed said in a statement.
Stutzman and her attorneys said they would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. They also held out hope that President Donald Trump would issue an executive order protecting religious freedom, which was a campaign pledge.

The article went on to rehearse the facts of the case and then quote several people (the state attorney general and the American Civil Liberties Union attorney for the gay couple) who were at a Seattle news conference. This went on for a number of paragraphs.

The Seattle Times gave two paragraphs to a press release from Stutzman’s attorneys.

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Arlene's Flowers vs. Washington state: This religious liberty battle keeps on going

Arlene's Flowers vs. Washington state: This religious liberty battle keeps on going

Unfortunately, I missed quite the event in my back yard on Tuesday: A hearing before the Washington State Supreme Court on what’s known as the “Arlene’s Flowers case.” Seated in an auditorium about seven miles from where I live, legal teams in argued the crucial church-state case, Robert Ingersoll & Curt Freed v. Arlene's Flowers, Inc.

I’ve covered the saga of Baronelle Stutzman before in GetReligion, so please click on that link to refresh your memories about the mainstream press coverage of what led to the lawsuit as well as what certainly appears to be the animus that the local American Civil Liberties Union and State Attorney General Bob Ferguson have against this florist.

Outside the auditorium where the hearing was held, there were a lot of pro-Stutzman demonstrators clamoring for her; an unusual sight in this bluest of blue states. The Tri-City Herald, a daily in eastern Washington that’s Stutzman’s hometown newspaper had the best reporting on the hearing, so I’ll start with that: 

BELLEVUE  -- Hundreds packed a college theater Tuesday to hear arguments in the case of a Richland flower shop and the same-sex couple who say they were discriminated against when the owner refused to make arrangements for their wedding.
Barronelle Stutzman, who owns Arlene’s Flowers, cited her relationship with Jesus Christ when she turned down the request of longtime customer Robert Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed.
On Tuesday, after 3 1/2 years of legal wrangling, Stutzman, Ingersoll and Freed found themselves seated in the front row before the state Supreme Court.

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Bravo! Christian Science Monitor's seven-part religious liberty series delivers a punch

Bravo! Christian Science Monitor's seven-part religious liberty series delivers a punch

Living as I do just east of Seattle, I’ve been waiting for a magazine to do the definitive profile of Barronelle Stutzman, the Richland, Wash., florist who’s getting sued to the nines for refusing to provide flowers for the wedding of a gay friend. Whereas the New Yorker and the Atlantic have sat this one out,  the Christian Science Monitor has stepped in. Their Stutzman piece, which ran last week, leans over backward to give the florist’s side of the story.

It is part of an intriguing series of seven stories on religious liberty and gay rights and it’s the best treatment I’ve seen yet. The lead story discusses how gay rights is pushing many religious Americans into a corner where they feel compelled to support behaviors their faith condemns as immoral. Look for the Russell Moore quote about the sexual revolution not tolerating public dissent and the John Inazu quote about will happen to our society when faith-based organizations -- if stripped of their nonprofit status -- cease to provide social services to the hungry, poor and homeless.

Other Monitor stories include one asking whether wedding photography is art protected under the First Amendment and whether an artist can be compelled to produce a work she disagrees with (in this case a gay wedding). Then there was this story about the hate mail and death threats that wedding cake designers in Oregon, Colorado and Texas as well as Stutzman the florist have gotten after their well-publicized court cases. This is the first time I’ve seen any media bother to cover this angle.

In covering these issues, the Monitor goes deeper and provides more background than anywhere else I’ve read. The Stutzman story was unusual in that it told some of the legal machinations behind her case.

Barronelle Stutzman loved doing custom floral work for Robert Ingersoll. He became one of her best customers, often encouraging her creativity.
“Do your thing,” he would tell her when placing an order. And he loved what she did.

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