How Did Gay 'Wedding' Flowers Lead to a Supreme Court Battle Over Creativity?

We think we know the story: florist Barronelle Stutzman declined a request to design the floral artwork for a gay so-called wedding.  Her position, grounded on the First Amendment, landed her in hot water with the Washington State Supreme Court.  She appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which remanded the case back to Washington.  The state Supreme Court sustained the ruling that Stutzman broke the law.  The unfortunate game of hot potato between the courts has left Stutzman no option but to re-appeal to the highest court in the land, as she contends that no creative professional should be required or coerced to create art that violates his core convictions.  The broader principle at stake is whether the courts can coerce creative expression under the guise of protecting LGBT civil rights.

The media have mischaracterized Stutzman as a bigot, but in reality, she is fighting for the freedom of creative expression for everyone.  In a USA Today op-ed piece published in October, she exposes the ruling for what it really is: an attack on creativity.  People may not think of florists as artists, but Stutzman reflects on her creative process: "I discuss with the bride and groom their wedding plans and get to know their relationship and personalities; I spend weeks creating dozens of custom floral designs that include not just flowers but also fabrics, pictures and other objects; I bring those designs to the ceremony."

She points out the philosophical irony of strong-arming politically correct creative expression.  She asks, "Why would people want to force me to celebrate a wedding that violates my faith?  Wouldn't they want someone able to devote themselves to it?  I wouldn't want to coerce an atheist to sing at my church on Sunday or a gay graphic designer to create a website promoting my church's views on marriage."

"I order you to be inspired and use your creativity to express a view you disagree with or else."  It sounds like a Mel Brooks satire of a dictator, but it's the First Amendment attack that Stutzman is fighting through the courts.  The very idea of coercing creativity is a contradiction in terms.  Trying to force creativity would, in fact, destroy it.

We know that innovators, artists, designers, and others known as "creatives" pour their souls into their inspired expressions.  Surprisingly, Time magazine, though not a Christian publication by any means, finds that the only way it can unpack the relationship of creativity and the soul is by referencing the Bible.  In a recent special edition titled "The Science of Creativity," editor Richard Jerome describes the relationship as "a special power imbued with a touch of the divine.  After all, creativity supplies the first verb of the Bible — 'In the beginning God created.'"  In verse 26 of the same chapter in Genesis, we learn that that the supreme Creator made human beings in His own image, apparently endowing the human soul with a similar inventive ability.

Even writers who don't refer to the Bible agree that creativity is crucial to humanity and cannot be coerced by the state.  It is the most fundamental of human qualities.  University of Notre Dame anthropologist Augustin Fuentes, author of The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional, writes, "Creativity is as much as part of our tool kit as walking on two legs, having a big brain, and really good hands for manipulating things."  Pulitzer Prize–winning biologist Edward O. Wilson in his book The Origins of Creativity adds that creativity is "the unique and defining trait of our species."  He defines it as "the discovery of new entities and processes, the solving of old challenges and disclosure to new ones, the aesthetic surprise of unanticipated facts and theories."  That novelty is precisely what would be lost if the state seeks to control the creative process.  As tech guru George Gilder notes, technology progress "is the product of human creativity, which always comes as a surprise to us. If creativity didn't come as a surprise, we wouldn't need it, and socialism would work."

If Stutzman loses her court appeal, the state will be essentially stifling creativity by enforcing the expression of a state-sanctioned ideology.  This standardization will destroy the very novelty that is crucial to creativity and creative expression.  According to Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, psychologist and co-author of Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, "we do seem to be biased in most schools and workplaces against individual expression and unique choice."  Yet "that sort of standardization of behavior is really a killer of creativity."  Author Rob Judkins concludes that "the genuinely innovative are led by their passions not by rational ambitions.  New ideas spring up from personal interests." 

And what are Stutzman's passions and personal interests?  Stutzman boldly states: "Life must be lived authentically, and Jesus is my authentic life."  "I can't separate parts of my faith if I hope to be genuine."  "I can't betray who I am."  In the words of Shakespeare, certainly one of history's best known creatives, "to thine own self be true."

Stutzman's re-appeal will determine if the authentic self/soul, which is the essence of creativity, will be censored by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Will the state claim jurisdiction over the inspiration, passion, and interests of the individual creative mind?  To quote Fuentes again, human creativity is "the capacity to think together, to imagine possibilities, and to hope."  Hope — the hope of a free soul, creative mind, and un-coerced expression for everyone — that is what Stutzman is fighting for.

Oscar Caicedo is a creative artist and designer.  Founder and top designer of Raccoon Woodworks.  A former U.S. Air Force officer, he holds an M.S. in management from Troy University and executive education from NYU, MIT, and Harvard Business School.

We think we know the story: florist Barronelle Stutzman declined a request to design the floral artwork for a gay so-called wedding.  Her position, grounded on the First Amendment, landed her in hot water with the Washington State Supreme Court.  She appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which remanded the case back to Washington.  The state Supreme Court sustained the ruling that Stutzman broke the law.  The unfortunate game of hot potato between the courts has left Stutzman no option but to re-appeal to the highest court in the land, as she contends that no creative professional should be required or coerced to create art that violates his core convictions.  The broader principle at stake is whether the courts can coerce creative expression under the guise of protecting LGBT civil rights.

The media have mischaracterized Stutzman as a bigot, but in reality, she is fighting for the freedom of creative expression for everyone.  In a USA Today op-ed piece published in October, she exposes the ruling for what it really is: an attack on creativity.  People may not think of florists as artists, but Stutzman reflects on her creative process: "I discuss with the bride and groom their wedding plans and get to know their relationship and personalities; I spend weeks creating dozens of custom floral designs that include not just flowers but also fabrics, pictures and other objects; I bring those designs to the ceremony."

She points out the philosophical irony of strong-arming politically correct creative expression.  She asks, "Why would people want to force me to celebrate a wedding that violates my faith?  Wouldn't they want someone able to devote themselves to it?  I wouldn't want to coerce an atheist to sing at my church on Sunday or a gay graphic designer to create a website promoting my church's views on marriage."

"I order you to be inspired and use your creativity to express a view you disagree with or else."  It sounds like a Mel Brooks satire of a dictator, but it's the First Amendment attack that Stutzman is fighting through the courts.  The very idea of coercing creativity is a contradiction in terms.  Trying to force creativity would, in fact, destroy it.

We know that innovators, artists, designers, and others known as "creatives" pour their souls into their inspired expressions.  Surprisingly, Time magazine, though not a Christian publication by any means, finds that the only way it can unpack the relationship of creativity and the soul is by referencing the Bible.  In a recent special edition titled "The Science of Creativity," editor Richard Jerome describes the relationship as "a special power imbued with a touch of the divine.  After all, creativity supplies the first verb of the Bible — 'In the beginning God created.'"  In verse 26 of the same chapter in Genesis, we learn that that the supreme Creator made human beings in His own image, apparently endowing the human soul with a similar inventive ability.

Even writers who don't refer to the Bible agree that creativity is crucial to humanity and cannot be coerced by the state.  It is the most fundamental of human qualities.  University of Notre Dame anthropologist Augustin Fuentes, author of The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional, writes, "Creativity is as much as part of our tool kit as walking on two legs, having a big brain, and really good hands for manipulating things."  Pulitzer Prize–winning biologist Edward O. Wilson in his book The Origins of Creativity adds that creativity is "the unique and defining trait of our species."  He defines it as "the discovery of new entities and processes, the solving of old challenges and disclosure to new ones, the aesthetic surprise of unanticipated facts and theories."  That novelty is precisely what would be lost if the state seeks to control the creative process.  As tech guru George Gilder notes, technology progress "is the product of human creativity, which always comes as a surprise to us. If creativity didn't come as a surprise, we wouldn't need it, and socialism would work."

If Stutzman loses her court appeal, the state will be essentially stifling creativity by enforcing the expression of a state-sanctioned ideology.  This standardization will destroy the very novelty that is crucial to creativity and creative expression.  According to Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, psychologist and co-author of Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, "we do seem to be biased in most schools and workplaces against individual expression and unique choice."  Yet "that sort of standardization of behavior is really a killer of creativity."  Author Rob Judkins concludes that "the genuinely innovative are led by their passions not by rational ambitions.  New ideas spring up from personal interests." 

And what are Stutzman's passions and personal interests?  Stutzman boldly states: "Life must be lived authentically, and Jesus is my authentic life."  "I can't separate parts of my faith if I hope to be genuine."  "I can't betray who I am."  In the words of Shakespeare, certainly one of history's best known creatives, "to thine own self be true."

Stutzman's re-appeal will determine if the authentic self/soul, which is the essence of creativity, will be censored by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Will the state claim jurisdiction over the inspiration, passion, and interests of the individual creative mind?  To quote Fuentes again, human creativity is "the capacity to think together, to imagine possibilities, and to hope."  Hope — the hope of a free soul, creative mind, and un-coerced expression for everyone — that is what Stutzman is fighting for.

Oscar Caicedo is a creative artist and designer.  Founder and top designer of Raccoon Woodworks.  A former U.S. Air Force officer, he holds an M.S. in management from Troy University and executive education from NYU, MIT, and Harvard Business School.