FFRF arrangement sent to Jessica. The flower shop issued this warm statement on their Facebook page:
"Glimpse of Gaia fully supports our First Amendment and will not be bullied by those who do not. Here's to you, Jessica Ahlquist!"
The Freedom From Religion Foundation discovered the shocking extent of petty and vindictive community reactions against 16 year old litigant Jessica Ahlquist when it attempted earlier this week to order a dozen roses to be delivered to the victorious state/church plaintiff in Cranson, R.I. FFRF is in the process of filing a complaint about one of the floral shops with Rhode Island’s human rights division over the civil rights violation.
Working through a Wisconsin flower shop Tuesday, Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, placed what she believed to be a routine order: A dozen red roses to be delivered on Wednesday with the message to Jessica: “Congratulations, and hang in there, with admiration from FFRF.”
Late yesterday, the local florist called FFRF’s office to report she had struck out at three Cranston florist’s shops, including at Twins Florist, which responded to the order in writing with this statement: “I will not deliver to this person.” The other two shops mysteriously produced unusual excuses for refusing the order. Gaylor said when she heard this news, “My jaw literally dropped. Everyone is stunned by the bigotry.”
FFRF was told a Warwick floral shop as of Wednesday had agreed to make the delivery today with no additional long distance charge. This morning, FFRF discovered it too was refusing the order, citing the excuse of unwanted media attention.
Thanks to an FFRF member’s referral, FFRF has placed an order out of state with a friendly shop, Glimpse of Gaia, in Putnam, Ct., which has agreed to deliver a dozen roses.
In addition to sending flowers, FFRF announced, after Jessica’s state legislator had called her “an evil little thing,” that it is re-awarding Jessica its Thomas Jefferson Student Activist award, this time doubling the scholarship to $2,000. “The thicker critics lay on the hate, the more we freethinkers will support Jessica,” Gaylor said.
FFRF, a 501(c)(3) a charity which has run a student activist scholarship fund in an accountable fashion for decades, has also announced a new scholarship, “The Atheists in a Foxhole Support Fund,” and is making Jessica the first recipient. (Donate to the fund here.)
The petite Jessica, who was already a lightning rod at her Cranson high school for challenging an illegal prayer banner in her auditorium, has come under a firestorm of local revilement since winning a federal judgment in her favor on Jan. 11. She has received nonstop abuse, even death wishes, via Twitter and social network sites, including by schoolmates.
“The vicious reaction in Rhode Island, where it seems nearly the entire state has banded together to bully and revile one very tiny and courageous teenager, is out of bounds and out of control. The Cranston school board, by not yet accepting the judge’s ruling, is, by its inaction, egging on Jessica’s abusers and fanning the controversy. It should be over with this strong ruling,” noted Gaylor.
Jessica was named FFRF’s Thomas Jefferson Student Activist awardee last year, wowing and charming the 34th annual national FFRF when she accepted her $1,000 scholarship in person.
“Rhode Island legislators, instead of calling her names, ought to be giving Jessica a commendation for her patriotism in standing up for the precious principle of separation between state and church,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president. “The hostility against Jessica is giving Rhode Island a black eye. It is time for reason to prevail and the law to be abided by.”