The Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing a Rhode Island florist in Superior Court in Providence for refusing to deliver FFRF's order of a dozen red roses to Cranston teen Jessica Ahlquist after she won a court case in January 2012.
The complaint, filed Jan. 25, 2013, alleges Marina Plowman, owner-operator of Twins Florist in Cranston, denied FFRF "full and equal access to public accommodations by refusing to fulfill a flower order on the basis of religion (non-belief), in violation of Rhode Island General Laws."
FFRF filed a previous complaint in January 2012 with the state Commission for Human Rights. A preliminary investigating commissioner determined in October that "probable cause" existed to believe that Plowman violated state law.
The parties could have engaged in more conciliation with the commission, but the defendant chose to move the matter to Superior Court. FFRF has asked for a jury trial.
The defendant told a TV reporter at the time, "It's my freedom of speech. I refuse orders when I want and I take orders when I want."
FFRF filed a similar complaint with the commission about Flowers by Santilli's refusal to fulfill the order. Flowers by Santilli chose pursue mediation through the commission. A hearing is set in March.
Attorney Katherine Godin of Warwick is FFRF's local counsel in the lawsuit.
It is absolutely outrageous that the Boy Scouts of America, which has proudly excluded both atheists and gays from its membership, announced yesterday that lifting its ban on gays — but not atheists — is on the agenda for the biannual meeting of its national board in February.
BSA spokesperson Deron Smith said a change in policy toward atheists is not being considered because "Duty to God" is one of its basic principles.
With one in five Americans — and as many as one in three young people — identifying as nonreligious, clearly millions of nontheistic families and their sons are being treated as undesirable members by BSA. It should not be socially acceptable to exclude either gays or atheists. Talk about proof of who's on the bottom of the social totem poll in our culture!
BSA has always falsely advertised that "any boy may join" and has relied upon and received major governmental favors. In the 1970s, discrimination against atheists became entrenched as BSA adopted a religious litmus test, forcing parents of boys interested in joining to sign a "Declaration of Religious Principles" returned with membership fees. The declaration states: "The Boy Scouts of America maintain that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God."
No one can grow into the best kind of citizen being told it is good form to discriminate against nonreligious children. BSA needs to be reminded it is not what you believe that makes you a good person, but what you do. Wrapping oneself in a mantle of piety is often counterproductive of moral action, as witnessed by the way in which "God belief" was used by BSA to justify excluding gays and atheists.
Challenge the kneejerk assumption that professing an orthodox belief in an unprovable deity has anything at all to do with ethical conduct. Clearly, the outcome of such piety for BSA is immoral — it places dogma over people, in this case real children, teenagers and volunteer leaders who are being shunned for holding the intellectually respectable position that we need proof before swallowing dogmatic claims.
Religion builds walls between children, and religious litmus tests have no place in a fraternal organization with a congressional charter.
The media, in covering this story, properly recite BSA's unkind history of bigotry against gays and gay families. These same mean practices have also personally harmed and stigmatized nontheist families and Scouts. (And it should be remembered that many gays are nonbelievers who would still, on that score, be unwelcome in BSA.)
Here are just a few of the many instances of ostracism and discrimination on the basis of religion practiced in recent decades by local and national BSA leaders:
• Stripping model Boy Scout Darrell Lambert of Oregon of his Eagle Scout badge in 2002 because he is an atheist. Darrell was a Scouting and community volunteer who had won first place in his state athletic medicine competitions and volunteered as a search and rescue worker. He was singled out for his atheism by his district commissioner, who told the class an atheist cannot be a good citizen.
• Denying 6-year-old Mark Welsh of suburban Chicago of the right to join Tiger Cubs, after being solicited through his public school. When his father encountered the Declaration of Religious Principles and explained to BSA officials he could not in good conscience sign it, Mark was told he was an undesirable candidate and left the sign-up meeting in tears.
A lawsuit under the Civil Rights Act was lost to BSA, which has vigorously defended its exclusionary policies in many court battles, including its exclusion of gays in a Supreme Court test.
• Twins William and Michael Randall were expelled with no warning from the Orange County Cub Scout pack despite three years of Scouting experience. The BSA appealed their challenge under the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and won the right to expel the twins. An agnostic den leader who sent a supportive letter to the Randalls was expelled, a common practice against those within BSA who have protested bigotry at the national level.
BSA has finally considered lifting its bigotry against gays after decades of protests and cut-off of major favors by corporations, public schools and some governmental bodies. That BSA is at least willing to reconsider its bigotry against gays shows it has listened to protest. Contact BSA immediately to urge it to take this opportunity to stop giving merit badges for bigotry — either against nontheists or gays.
It must be noted that the motion pending at its national board meeting is more than flawed. The Boy Scouts of America which had no problem dictating from the top down its absolute exclusion of gays in the past, announced it "would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation," but chartered groups (many of them Mormon) could "select leaders consistent with each organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs."
Contact and call BSA now!
Phoning is most effective! 972-580-2000
Email contact form: http://www.scouting.org/ContactUs.aspx
Alternate Phone (National Help Desk): 877-272-1910
Wayne Brock, Chief Scout Executive
1325 W. Walnut Hill Lane
Irving, Texas 75015-2079
(Writing letters to the editor and commenting at online sections at news sites and social media are also in order.)
14 Ways to Get Active, Right Now!
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has declared Jan. 22 — the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade — as "Protect Life Day."
The opening line of his pandering proclamation is blatantly untrue. He states that the U.S. Supreme Court decision "legalized abortion for any reason for the full nine months of pregnancy in all of the United States."
Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the first trimester without restrictions; it limited regulation in the second trimester to protect the woman's health and safety; and it gave the government the right to restrict or bar third trimester abortions.
Statistics show that about 87% of abortions take place in the first trimester, with 12% occurring after 12 weeks of pregnancy. Only about 1.3% are performed after the 20th week. Late-term abortions are usually to save a pregnant woman's life, such as when a woman discovers she is carrying a dead or brainless fetus.
Walker should retract and apologize to the citizens of Wisconsin for his shameful misstatement. Truth should matter, even to a fundamentalist.
We didn't elect Walker "Fundamentalist in Chief." He should keep his absurd Religious Right opinions to himself.
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We should be honoring, not casting aspersions, on this landmark decision for women's rights. As Margaret Sanger noted so many years ago in her quest to bring contraception to women, "No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation would not exist were it not for the Religious Right's war on reproductive freedom. My mother, Anne Nicol Gaylor, had her eyes opened to the harm of religious sway over secular law when she founded the Wisconsin Committee to Legalize Abortion in 1968.
Tagging along with her as a junior and senior in high school, my eyes were also opened. Seeing the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda and hearing rooms crowded with nuns, priests and bussed-in Catholic schoolchildren invoking "God" and the bible in all their testimony, we realized that while there were many women's groups chipping away at women's oppression, none was going to the root of the problem: organized religion.
I still remember my own and my mother's ecstatic joy when we first heard the news about Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22, 1973. The brutal battle, state by state, to try to decriminalize abortion had been ended in one fell swoop. We didn't know then how vicious and unrelenting the religion-fueled anti-choice movement would be, but here we are 40 years later, and Roe, while a bit battle-worn, is still the law of the land. My mother has written about the historic fight to overturn antiabortion laws in Wisconsin in her book, Abortion Is a Blessing.
Today, at 86, she is literally still answering the daily calls for the Women's Medical Fund, the abortion-rights charity she co-founded (with other atheists such as professor Robert West) in the 1970s. This pure charity has helped pay for abortions for more than 20,000 Wisconsin women — indigent women who should qualify for medical assistance but who are denied the right to abortion due to the Religious Right lobby, which has cut off abortion funding in Wisconsin and in many states and federally under the Hyde Amendment.
Daily she takes calls from teenagers, rape victims, victims of domestic abuse, those with many children already, ill and homeless women, living in conditions few of us can imagine, who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy and no place to turn.
We are winning the reproductive war. We see U.S. Catholic bishops defeated in their attempts to sabotage the contraceptive mandate and bishops overseas failing to stop state-funded contraception in the Philippines. But as we celebrate 40 years of freedom for women, we must redouble our efforts to end the religion-fostered cut-off of public assistance for indigent women needing abortion care in the U.S. These forgotten and disenfranchised women deserve the same right to constitutional privacy, to control their own bodies, as the more affluent.
Atheists do indeed start and run charities. Please read the Women's Medical Fund's letter of appeal to learn more about the need. I challenge everyone who is offended by Governor Walker's proclamation, who has the means to do so, to fight back by making a charitable donation to the Women's Medical Fund.
Annie Laurie Gaylor is author of Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So and is editor of the anthology Women Without Superstition: No Gods — No Masters.