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Feb 01 2013

FFRF Sues Florist Who Refused Flowers for Jessica Ahlquist

You may remember that a year ago, after Jessica Ahlquist won her lawsuit against the Cranston Public Schools over a prayer mural, the Freedom From Religion Foundation could not find a florist willing to deliver flowers to her. They’re now suing one of those florists for religious discrimination, but only under state law. You can read the full complaint here.

The complaint alleges violation of Rhode Island’s anti-discrimination law, chapters 11-24, which says:

All persons within the jurisdiction of this state shall be entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of any place of public accommodation, resort or amusement, subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all persons.

The statute explicitly says that the law “shall be construed liberally for the accomplishment of their purposes,” which is, of course, to prevent discrimination against anyone in Rhode Island for purposes of public accommodation. And under the law, a place of public accommodation is essentially any business that is open to the public. This is nearly identical to the case we have going here in Michigan against a country club that canceled a contract to host a dinner with Richard Dawkins.

33 comments

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  1. 1
    machintelligence

    I may just be feeling contrary today, but isn’t calling a florist a place of public accommodation, resort or amusement a bit of a stretch? Especially since the order was placed over the phone and was for delivery. The country club was truly a public venue.

  2. 2
    tubi

    And under the law, a place of public accommodation is essentially any business that is open to the public.

    I think accomodation in this sense means the facilitation of any public interaction, such as the purchase and delivery of flowers. It doesn’t mean accomodation in the sense of quest quarters/meeting hall.

  3. 3
    frankb

    In colonial times Rhode Island was the land of religious tolerance. How times have changed.

  4. 4
    eric

    It still is, as long as you arent an evil little (atheist) thing.

  5. 5
    democommie

    When will the GODLESS atheist juggernaut stop crushing the hopes and dreams of KKKristian MurKKKa?

  6. 6
    steve84

    Urk. Pick your battles. This is not worth it.

  7. 7
    Martin Wagner

    What battles have you fought lately, Steve84?

  8. 8
    Reginald Selkirk

    Would winning this small battle make it easier to win a larger battle later?

  9. 9
    davemuscato

    machintelligence, “places of public accommodation” is legalese for a business that serves the public.

    Re: picking battles, setting precedent is ALWAYS worth it!

  10. 10
    Alverant

    steve84, give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. Not doing anything sends a message that it’s OK to discriminate against Atheists.

  11. 11
    dogmeat

    Urk. Pick your battles. This is not worth it.

    Yeah, I mean look at what little that whole lunch counter foolishness accomplished. It isn’t as if allowing someone to sit and eat at a lunch counter could have anything to do with greater recognition of rights and liberties. [/snark]

  12. 12
    Crudely Wrott

    Correct me if I’m wrong but does the term “public market place” not imply inclusiveness. That is, anyone who presents coin of the realm in exchange for goods or services has a reasonable expectation to leave satisfied?

    As a side note, upon entering into an agreement in the public market, that is, making a purchase, I have never been asked to provide anything other than coin of the realm, let alone to declare my loyalties, beliefs or personal quirks. I’ve come to think of this as the natural course of doing business. Maybe I’m just lucky. I’ve nearly always enjoyed good, if not jovial and memorable, relations with the shopkeepers and clerks and managers that I’ve been associated with.

    I pity the punks at those Rhode Island flower shops. They have even shamed the blossoms.

  13. 13
    Christoph Burschka

    I can see the rationale behind “this battle is not worth it”, but that would have applied just as easily to the banner that started the whole thing in the first place. Certainly when I first read about that lawsuit, my gut reaction was “um, seriously? Yeah, it’s illegal, but isn’t there more important stuff than fighting something this trivial?”

    Only then it suddenly wasn’t trivial. Religious fundamentalists were treating what should have been an open-and-shut establishment clause case like someone was suing them for their firstborn. They turned school board meetings into prayer rallies, and harassed a high school student to the point of needing police protection.

    If the opponents of secularism get this riled up about losing a battle, then it is probably worth fighting. The same, I believe, applies here.

  14. 14
    wholething

    Especially since the order was placed over the phone and was for delivery

    Would that mean that a Pizza Hut restaurant could not discriminate but a Domino delivery outfit could?

  15. 15
    dingojack

    Crudely Wrott – “I pity the punks at those Rhode Island flower shops. They have even shamed the blossoms”.

    Isn’t the last sentence merely ‘gilding the lily’? :)

    Dingo
    ——–
    Can a business legally refuse to serve a customer?
    What constitutes ‘religious discrimination’, exactly? And how would one prove it?

  16. 16
    Childermass

    I can’t see why anyone would not see this one as worth it.

    1) It is a battle that is easily won in court.
    2) The backlash factor is about as little as is possible for a religious minority rights case.
    3) This is not a manner of symbolism or being thin-skinned, this is a blatant example of substantive discrimination.
    4) Not suing sends a message: These people can be pushed around.

  17. 17
    steve84

    Yeah compare something trivial like this with segregation. Well done. That will make me take you seriously.

  18. 18
    diesel213

    Actually I don’t think you’re being quite fair here. The comparison made was between the refusal to deliver flowers due to someone’s lack of belief and the counterpoint was made to not allowing someone to sit at a certain place due to the color of their skin. You then compared this incident with segregation as a whole, which is not what originally occured. A more apt comparison to segregation would then be the disenfranchisment as a whole to the atheist population, which there most assuredly is.

  19. 19
    chilidog99

    Why are they asking for a jury trial?

  20. 20
    chilidog99

    My only objection to this is that the FFRF seemed to have deliberately created the situation by making a big deal out of the supposed security constraints.

  21. 21
    Jeff D

    The demand for jury trial “on all issues so triable” is a rote element of a complaint filed in a civil court, where common law principles would allow either side to request a trial by jury on any issue at all. Lawyers add jury trial demands to complaints (or to answers) for up to 4 reasons: (1) So that the right to jury trial, if there is one, is not accidentally waived, where a waiver might expose the lawyer to a malpractice claim; (2) because victory might be easier on some factual issues if they are tried before a jury rather than before a judge; (3) because a jury trial might generate more favorable publicity for the client during and after the trial; and (4) because the extra cost of a jury trial might motivate the opposing parties to settle.

    In this case, if Rhode Island law is like the laws of the states in which I am licensed to practice, a jury trial is not available on the claim for declaratory relief (a judgment / decision by the court deciding or clarifying the parties’ rights or the application of a law to the parties. The question of what pecuniary (actual monetary) damages a plaintiff is entitled to recover is normally a question that can be tried before a jury.

  22. 22
    joachim

    Sue everybody who looks sideways at an atheist.

    Make people respect you.

    Eventually you will have political power, and then control.

    And then you can set up the Gulags. After all, that is what has happened every time atheists got total control.

  23. 23
    joachim

    But hey, I do appreciate them suing for religious discrimination.

    Meaning atheism is a religion.

    And it means Dan Barners comfortable salary gets paid.

  24. 24
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    FFRF Sues Florist Who Refused Flowers for Jessica Ahlquist

    Good!

  25. 25
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Hope the FFRF win as they deserve to win. As does Jessica Ahlquist.She’s an absolute legend.

  26. 26
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    & for the record & clarity I’m no relation or connection to Steve84 -which’ll probs please hims much as me.

  27. 27
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @ 22 & 23 Joachim :

    Really?

    You really goanna try to flippin’ run with that dung?

    Uhm, no.

    Citations very much needed there.

  28. 28
    Reginald Selkirk

    Joachim the ignorant #23: But hey, I do appreciate them suing for religious discrimination.
    Meaning atheism is a religion.

    For first amendment purposes, atheism is a religion; there is ample legal precedent for that. If your head wasn’t wedged in your nether regions you would already know that.

    And it means Dan Barners comfortable salary gets paid.

    I’m guessing you mean Dan Barker, but you’re too lazy and incompetent to get it right.

  29. 29
    savagemutt

    Eventually you will have political power, and then control.

    And then you can set up the Gulags.

    Wait, we have to get political power first? So the gulag I already set up is useless? Crap!

  30. 30
    steve oberski

    steve84

    Urk. Pick your battles. This is not worth it.

    Yes, this is exactly what the Cranston Public School board should have said.

  31. 31
    steve oberski

    joachim

    Sue everybody who looks sideways at an atheist.

    No, just the people that refuse to treat every human being equally under the law, you know like some of those other groups you have a hard on for like homosexuals, blacks and women.

  32. 32
    Marcus Ranum

    And then you can set up the Gulags. After all, that is what has happened every time atheists got total control.

    Mmmmmmm new troll meat. Hey, troll, why don’t you try your wit and wisdom over at Pharyngula? The commentariat there is likely to enjoy rolling around in the sewer with you. And you’ll be able to get all the attention you so obviously crave.

  33. 33
    Marcus Ranum

    So the gulag I already set up is useless? Crap!

    Are you kidding? Offer it to the christians as a kid’s summer indoctrination camp. They eat that kind of stuff up.

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