If you’re not familiar with Jessica Alquist’s story, she’s the teenage girl who fought and succeeded in removing an unconstitutional Christian “School Prayer” hung in Cranston West public high-school in Rhode Island.
When Jessica won her lawsuit, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) tried to have a bouquet of roses delivered to the 16-year old girl in congratulations. They contacted 4 separate florists in Cranston, each of whom refused the order:
- Floral Express said that they were “closed on the requested delivery day” (which was the same day) and “. . . I am not able to fill this.”
- Twins Florist said: “I will not deliver to this person.”
- Flowers by Santilli said he would “rather not get involved” and refused to fill the order.
- Greenwood Flower and Garden in Warwick, which agreed to accept the order, later called back and said that patrons were phoning and emailing threatening to boycott his business so he refused the order, too.
The Federal Civil Rights Act guarantees all people the right to “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.” However, private businesses are allowed to refuse service based on legitimate business concerns. So it comes down to the question: “Are the florists refusing service because Jessica is an atheist or due to fear of the community?” Or put more succinctly, “Are they bigots or cowards?”
The FFRF was eventually able to find an out-of-state florist willing to deliver the flowers: Glimpse of Gaia in Putnam, Connecticut. In fact, Glimpse of Gaia added a free second dozen roses to the order and said: “Glimpse of Gaia fully supports our First Amendment and will not be bullied by those who do not. Here’s to you, Jessica Ahlquist.”