FFRF florist complaint gets green light

In early October, the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights notified FFRF’s local attorney Katherine Godin that “a Preliminary Investigating Commissioner carefully reviewed and considered the information gathered during the course of the investigation by members of the Commission staff. The Commissioner has determined that there is ‘probable cause’ to believe that the respondents have violated the Rhode Island Hotels and Public Places Act. . .”

FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert filed a complaint in January after four florists refused its order of flowers to congratulate Jessica Ahlquist, the Cranston, R.I., teen who had just won a major ruling in her favor by a federal judge, who agreed a prayer banner in her high school’s auditorium was unconstitutional. FFRF had to contract for the services from a Connecticut florist in order to get the flowers delivered. FFRF filed the complaint against two of the Cranston florists.

FFRF alleges “illegal discrimination based on religion” for failure to fill the order. Markert cited the state law that says it’s unlawful for a place of accommodation to deny services “on account of religion.”

The commission’s preliminary finding further states, “Since the finding of probable cause, the parties [FFRF, Twins Florist and Flowers by Santilli] have begun conciliation endeavors. Should the parties not come to an agreement or settlement, the Commission will order a hearing to determine whether the statute was violated. Either party also has a right to request a transfer of the case to Superior Court.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation