KENNEWICK, Wash. — After recently shutting down the fundraising page for persecuted Christian bakers in Oregon, the popular crowdfunding site GoFundMe has now removed a page for a Christian florist who is at risk of losing her business, home and/or life savings for declining to use her services for a same-sex “wedding.”
The removal of the fundraising effort for Arlene’s Flowers came just 48 hours after the site had taken down the page for Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which had been ordered to pay $135,000 in “emotional damages” to two lesbian women that filed a complaint after the owners stated that they could not assist with their ceremony.
As previously reported, Baronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland was leveled with a lawsuit in March 2012 by State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who claimed that she had violated the law by offering a referral rather than servicing the event herself.
Stutzman had been approached by one of her faithful customers, Robert Ingersoll, a homosexual, as he wanted her to supply the flowers for his upcoming ceremony with his partner, Curt. She states that she politely explained that she would not be able to help in regard to the event, but referred him to three other florists that may help.
“I just took his hands and said, ‘I’m sorry. I cannot do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’” Stutzman told reporters.
Weeks later, Ferguson issued Stutzman a letter advising that she must accommodate homosexual ceremonies or be subject to a lawsuit and heavy fines. He included with his letter a form that offered Stutzman the opportunity to recant and agree to comply with the law. She refused, and was subsequently met with a discrimination suit.
In January, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Eckstrom—while throwing out a charge that accused Stutzman of directing her business to violate the state’s anti-discrimination laws—ruled that the florist may be held personally responsible for the incident. The ruling drew concerns that fines could consequently place Stutzman at risk of losing her business, home and/or bank accounts.
In February, Eckstrom granted summary judgment to Stutzman’s opponents, agreeing that she had committed an act of discrimination. Last month, he ordered her to pay $1,000 to Ferguson as a civil penalty, a punishment that is stated to be “only the first punch” financially against the business owner since Eckstrom found that Stutzman may be required to pay damages and attorney’s fees to Ingersoll and his partner, which will be far more costly.
A GoFundMe page was then created for Stutzman, which before it was taken down, had raised over $174,000. But by Monday, supporters noticed that the page no longer existed.
Just two days before, the popular crowdfunding site had removed the fundraiser for Sweet Cakes by Melissa due to the urging of same-sex advocates. It released an explanation for pulling the page, stating that the fundraising site doesn’t allow crowdfunding campaigns for those who have been found guilty of violating laws.
“After careful review by our team, we have found the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign to be in violation of our terms and conditions,” it wrote. “[T]he subjects of the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign have been formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts. Accordingly, the campaign has been disabled.”
“The GoFundMe account that was set up to help our family was shut down by the administrators of GoFundMe because they claimed it was raising money for an illegal purpose,” Melissa Klein said that she had been told by the outlet. “We have told GoFundMe that the money is simply going to be used to help our family, and there is no legitimate breach of their terms and conditions.”
A spokesperson for GoFundMe told the DailySignal that its decision “to remove the ‘Arlene’s Flowers’ campaign was [likewise] based on a violation of GoFundMe’s terms.”
“The same conclusion was recently reached in regards to the ‘Sweet Cakes by Melissa’ campaign based on a similar violation of terms,” the spokesperson added.
Kristen Waggoner of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) told the outlet that she believes homosexual activists are seeking to bully and shut down Christians by any means possible.
“It’s not enough to have the government redefine marriage or to punish those who disagree. The opponents of freedom have to ruin every aspect of the lives of those who disagree—denying them a living, the ability to feed their families, and the opportunity to raise money to pay the so-called ‘victims,’” she said. “This type of vindictive, hateful behavior is terrifying.”
“Corporations like Apple, Salesforce, and GoFundMe want to make sure they can live and work consistent with their beliefs about marriage, but then deny that same right to people like Barronelle Stutzman who lovingly served her customer for nearly a decade but simply couldn’t participate in the celebration of his same-sex wedding,” Waggoner stated.
Some Christians are now calling for the creation of a Christian crowdfunding site where believers can support each other in their time of need.