FFRF sues florist in Rhode Island

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, alleges that 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 (nonbelief), 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.

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor asked for the following message to be delivered with the roses, “Congratulations, and hang in there. With admiration from FFRF.”

At the time, the defendant told ABC 6 television reporter Alexandra Cowley, “It’s my freedom of speech. I refuse orders when I want and I take orders when I want.”

The parties could have engaged in more conciliation with the commission, but the defendant chose to move the matter to Superior Court. 

The suit notes that FFRF feels responsible “to expose the perceived discrimination by notifying the media of the defendant’s refusal, as well as the refusal of the other flower shops, in order to educate the public on matters related to nontheism and to defend the civil rights of nonbelievers.”

FFRF filed a similar complaint with the commission about Flowers by Santilli’s refusal to fulfill the order. Flowers by Santilli chose to pursue mediation through the commission. A hearing is set in March in that case.

Attorney Katherine Godin of Warwick is FFRF’s local counsel in the lawsuit.

Freedom From Religion Foundation