FFRF is Suing Florist Who Refused to Deliver Flowers to Young Atheist

I thought Florist-gate ended a year ago. I was wrong.

The backstory: After Jessica Ahlquist won her legal battle to take down a religious banner from the wall of her public high school, the Freedom From Religion Foundation tried to send her flowers as a congratulatory gift. No florist in the Cranston, Rhode Island area would deliver them to her.

Including Twins Florist:

Had the shop owners just refused to deliver the flowers, there may not be a case, but in the aftermath of the Ahlquist refusal, owner Marina Plowman told a news reporter (PDF):

“It’s my freedom of speech I refuse orders when I want and I take orders when I want… I just chose not to do it. Nothing personal, it was a choice I made. It was my right, so I did that. I’m an independent owner and I can choose whoever I want, whenever I want.”

Initially, FFRF was willing to pursue mediation with the other side, overseen by the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights. In fact, one of the other florists who refused to deliver flowers to Jessica chose this route.

But Twin Florists didn’t do that. Instead, they took the issue to a higher court and FFRF is pushing back. They’re suing Plowman for denying them “full and equal access to public accommodations by refusing to fulfill a flower order on the basis of religion” and hoping for a jury trial.

Can’t wait to see how Twins Florist tries to get out of this one…



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

    Good. It’s a clear violation of civil rights law.

  • Baby_Raptor

    She has a Republican’s understanding of the laws.

  • cathouseumbrella

    That’s really strange. Rhode Island is one of the least religious states in the country.

    • Art_Vandelay

      Really? Where do you get these numbers? I live here and it doesn’t feel that way at all. It seems to be completely saturated in Catholicism. Did you happen to notice the collective aneurysm RI had when the governor had the audacity to refer to a decorated evergreen as a “Holiday Tree”…let alone the Ahlquist fiasco.

      • Trickster Goddess

        This post from a few days ago about a survey that shows that Providence is the least bible-minded city in the US.

        • ortcutt

          Catholics don’t read the Bible. My parents were Catholic and I’m not sure we even owned one when I was growing up. Bible-mindedness isn’t the same as religiosity.

          • Jim Jones

            IIRC, Catholics are taught catechism, not the bible.

        • CelticWhisper
          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            *nods* That’ll do it.

        • Art_Vandelay

          Yeah…that’s the thing. Atheists are more likely to read the bible than Catholics.

          • ganner918

            Their definition of “bible-minded” was reads at least once a week and believes it is accurate in what it says.

            • Art_Vandelay

              I don’t think they’re counting atheists among the bible-minded in that poll. I’m saying most Catholics don’t read their book. They still consider themselves religious.

      • cathouseumbrella

        According to a Gallup poll conducted last year, Rhode Island tied with New York as the tenth least religious state in the nation: http://www.gallup.com/poll/153479/Mississippi-Religious-State.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=syndication&utm_content=morelink&utm_term=Politics%20-%20Religion%20-%20Religion%20and%20Social%20Trends%20-%20USA#1

        Also, anecdotally, I grew up in southeastern Mass., not too far from Rhode Island, and that area in general is far less religious than most of the US.

        • Art_Vandelay

          More of an indictment on the rest of the country than a hat tip to the secular progressiveness of Rhode Island. Trust me…when it comes time to feel persecuted by completely innocuous shit, that 37% of the population that describes themselves as “moderately religious” is happily jumping over to the side of the “very religious.”

          • cathouseumbrella

            Trust you? Like I said, I’m originally from that general area also. It’s not very religious. Even the religious people in New England tend to keep it to themselves more than their counterparts in other areas. I didn’t fully appreciate that fact until I lived a few other places, but it’s true.

            • Art_Vandelay

              Here’s the problem with these polls when looking at this part of the country…The Kennedy Complex. This place is vary Catholic but it also happens to be very liberal. Politically, you have a population that is very pro-choice, pro-homosexual, pro-diversity. But a huge part of that population is also Catholic and have no problems calling themselves Catholic as to reap the benefits of being part of that majority while at the same time living in a complete state of cognitive dissonance. In other words, they’re funding an institution that uses that money to oppress gays, subjugate women, oh and I don’t know…help cover-up the systematic rape of children all over the world for example. So with such an enormous conflict of ideologies here, when it comes time to profess your Catholicism, of course they’re going to downplay it. However, when some dirty atheist threatens their baby Jesus…they’re about as Catholic as you get. This is why it shouldn’t be surprising. They’re very religious…they just happen to belong to a church that makes them compromise their values.

              • cathouseumbrella

                You can try and twist and turn however you want but the data is on my side: that region is one of the least religious in the country. Since you brought up Catholicism, it’s worth noting that that particular denomination is actually collapsing rapidly in New England. According to this article, for example, the number of Catholics in Massachusetts dropped by 15% in a span of just 18 years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s dropped even further in the five years since that poll: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles_of_faith/2009/03/poll_finds_fewe.html

                • Art_Vandelay

                  Okay, well you don’t seem to be interested in my logic as to why I believe those stats to be skewed so there’s no point in carrying on here. You can like declare victory or something. I thought this was just a conversation.

    • Jim Jones
  • Revyloution

    I’m confused, how is this a violation of civil rights? How is a florist a ‘public accommodation”? Shouldn’t just the word of mouth, and bad Yelp reviews be enough to punish their ignorance?

    This reminds me of that suit over Elane Photography, where she refused to shoot a gay wedding. Someone please tell me why a gay couple would want a bigoted Christian to attend their wedding in any capacity? These both seem like an over-reach to me.

    • David McNerney

      I don’t understand either.

      The florist didn’t say that the reason was because Jessica was an atheist. She just chose not to deliver to her.

      It seems that the florist could just say she didn’t want to deliver to her because of the controversy and she didn’t want to get involved.

      • Julep

        Agreed. This is not a clear-cut case of religious bias, since she never said it was due to Jessica’s atheism. If I refused to deliver flowers to Rush Limbaugh, it could be due to 1) Bias against Republicans or 2) Dislike of things that he, personally, has done.

        • http://www.facebook.com/abb3w Arthur Byrne

          Political party is not a protected class. Religious views are.

          The Florist has apparently claimed “I just chose not to do it”. Whether being the actual basis was no reason (legally allowed) as she claims or religious discrimination (legally proscribed) as the FRFF claims is a question of fact, which will thus go before a jury (unless the defendant prefers trial before a judge, which I wouldn’t recommend).

      • Sir TJ

        It doesn’t matter much what she said. Intent can be inferred from behavior. That will be one of the questions of fact for the judge or jury.

      • ortcutt

        That’s something that a jury can decide. There’s no requirement that someone say magic words like “I won’t deliver to atheists.” Refusing to serve someone because of characteristic incident to their religion may also fall within the prohibited conduct. I’m sure that FFRF has capable attorneys who checked the RI case law.

        • fin312

          And the jury will hear the “IDLE” threats(you know the same kind that Ahlquist received and was afforded police protection for) that these florists received via voice mail. If they checked R.I. case law they should have also googled local news stations coverage and they would have heard some of these threats. No police protection was afforded to them. A court will never hear this case, if it had any merit A………HOLE Steve Brown from the R.I ACLU chapter would have been all over it like a fly on shit.

      • TheBlackCat13

        Sometimes actions speak louder than words. That is why we have judges and juries and not computers deciding cases. Sometimes people will be careful not to admit to something that their actions make plainly clear.

        • fin312

          Ok, then why is it ok for Hemant Mehta to ban theists from “his” blog? and he has done it. This is the same principle, a venue open to the public.

          • Bill S.

            “The Friendly Atheist” is not a business of public accommodation. It is a blog.

            • fin312

              I’ll take a shot here is this Bill S from R.I.? Only if he uses his own $’s.

      • The Other Weirdo

        Where I come from, it was quite acceptable, if not strictly legal, to discriminate against Jews so long as you spoke in euphemism: “I am sorry, but the position for which you were perfect yesterday and for which we asked you to bring your ID and passport today has now been filled.” It’s still discrimination. “I will not deliver to this person” is a euphemism for “I am a bigot”. Context makes it so.

    • Artor

      The florist is doing business with the public, therefore, their shop is a public accommodation Imagine if they declared they would not deliver to “colored people,” or “No Catholics,” and it quickly becomes clear.

      • Jasper

        It’s actually kind of tricky if there’s no “place” like a restaurant or store. I looked at the website, and they appear to have a storefront. So the question would be, if we had a restaurant like Pizza Hut who decided not to deliver to someone to due race, but would allow that race IN the restaurant would that qualify?

        The actual Act spends a lot of effort establishing what a “place of public accommodation means. A product delivery service doesn’t fit very well.

      • Revyloution

        Still not clear. If someone hated me for the color of my skin, I’d rather not buy flowers from them. In this day of instant reviews, online ordering, and the large population we have, I don’t see a problem finding an alternative service. I’m really uncomfortable forcing people to do anything.

        • Jasper

          That attitude doesn’t work in rural areas. It’s only viable if one lives in an area with many options.

          Flowers are one thing, but it’s basically the same argument for allowing pharmacies to impose their religious views on their customers even if they are the only pharmacy within range.

        • The Captain

          You feel “uncomfortable” forcing a public business not to discriminate? So for you the act of having our democracy lay out laws requiring non-discrimination to customers is less troubling than discrimination? Ughh!

          Also you need to leave your city/dreamland for a minute. You do realize there are places where “alternatives” do not exists right? And what if the “alternatives” also want to discriminate? Yours is the rational that would allow all the grocery stores in a rural area to stop selling food to “those people” who just happen to be the jews who wanted to put up a menorah at their kids school until they force them all to move or starve. It the rational used by those who think the powerful, or the “owners” should have rule over those that don’t. IT says “we supply the business in this area, you must act as we say for our service”. It’s just economic thuggery in the name of “freedom”.

          • Jasper

            Exactly right – even if there’s 5 pharmacies, they could all decide not to serve you. It’s called “mob rule”. It’s funny because this case with the florists was an example of that. Every florist company in town decided to discriminate. You get that a lot when you’re in an area that’s predominantly one religion or another.

            That’s why we have constitutional rights – that you are allowed to live your life free from the oppression of others. This civil rights act was an extension of that idea. If you offer a public service, you have to play by the rules.

            • Revyloution

              Flowers and photography aren’t medicine. They are art. This is tantamount to compelled speech.

              • TheBlackCat13

                If you provide your products or services to the public for money, it isn’t really ordinary speech anymore. It is the same reason why the standards for “free speech” are highly curtailed when it comes to advertising.

              • Jasper

                That makes no sense. The flowers are a product from a store where delivery was included. There is no compelling of the florist to say something he/she doesn’t want to say, in any way shape or form. It isn’t compelled speech for a pizza delivery guy to be required to deliver to an atheist either, despite his objections.

                I’m sorry, you don’t get you merely blithely declare the flowers “art” as some kind of get-out-of-jail free card.

                If the atheist had gone into a florist’s store to buy flowers for another person, that’s not compelled speech either. And if that happened, that florist would be streamrolled by the law.

              • Jasper

                Was there even any indication that the florist was being hired to do anything artistic? Or are you assuming that anything that has to do with flowers is automatically art and therefore speech?

                They ordered flowers and supplied a message. It would be about as much “speech” as throwing some apples in a bag, stapling on a note that was provided to you and handing it off to someone.

                If the florist felt his/her speech was under duress, then slapping a random set of random flowers (or specified by the customer) simply does not constitute speech on the florist’s part.

                That’s gibberish.

            • LutherW

              And they could decide based on “free market” pressure, or even “free market” threats to their person and business.

            • bethelj

              You can’t actually make people provide services to people they don’t want to serve. I mean, temporarily you can. But there’s a reason why Detroit is a hollowed out shell of the great city it once was. People leave situations they perceive as hostile to their freedoms, and they take their businesses and tax dollars with them.

          • Revyloution

            I guess I’m saying that flowers and photography aren’t medicine and food. These are very different things, and should be treated differently.

            Perhaps the florist and the photographer handled it wrong. Perhaps they should have taken the jobs and wore t-shirts that say ‘God Hates Fags’, or ‘Atheists Burn In Hell’. That would have been OK, right? Or do you loose your free speech rights when your’e forced to take work you don’t want?

            • TheBlackCat13

              So you are saying it is okay to exclude certain classes of people from buying certain classes of products or services as long it isn’t necessary to survive?

              • BruceMcGlory

                That’s exacutly what he’s saying because it won’t affect HIM. HE isn’t in a marginalized group, therefore his incredible ignorance isn’t going to be affected by how reality works for those of us who aren’t straight white dudes.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              Ah, so as long as grocery stores are open, restaurants cannot be compelled to serve racial minorities. Got it. Also, there’s tons of clothing stores, so Saks 5th Avenue and Neiman Marcus can discriminate all they want- after all, they’re just luxury goods not necessities.

              Wait, wtf? No. Just no.

            • dandaman

              What you really need to do is substitute Atheist with whatever denomination you are, or if you are atheist, place black, jew, xian etc. and see how it fits. she’s in the wrong.

            • dandaman

              What you really need to do is substitute Atheist with whatever denomination you are, or if you are atheist, place black, jew, xian etc. and see how it fits. she’s in the wrong.

        • Kengi

          “I don’t see a problem finding an alternative service.”

          Didn’t you read the article above? No florist ANYWHERE nearby would deliver flowers. That’s an entire market someone is barred from using. You should be uncomfortable with telling individuals they aren’t allowed to purchase a product or service because of the color of their skin or religion. I can only assume you never read anything about the Jim Crow era.

          This case demonstrates that little has changed when it comes to discrimination other than the people who are being discriminated against. Your imagined free market utopia still does not exist, and never will so long as people are part of that marketplace.

          • Revyloution

            I’m not a libertarian, and I am in the group being discriminated against. I see a significant difference between food and medicine vs flowers and photography. There are also many differences between small single owner business and large corporations. I don’t want to buy flowers from someone as ignorant as this fool, and I’m glad he let me know ahead of time. I don’t want the government forcing me to work for him, so I have to reciprocate and not want him forced to service me.

            • Kengi

              I don’t give a flying hoot if you are libertarian or not. You are pushing the same crap “invisible hand of the market” nonsense the libertarians harp on and on about. You say you don’t want to buy flowers from that person because of their bigotry. Fine. But AGAIN (why do you ignore this inconvenient fact?) what happens when ALL of the business providing that service in an area are bigots? You then have to go without that service at all, which infringes upon your rights.

              You seem to think that only the business has rights. The customers using that business have rights as well.

          • Isilzha

            Yeah, he hasn’t been discriminated against! It’s easy to find an alternative service when you have the option to do so, isn’t it!

        • Isilzha

          It’s perfectly clear, you just refuse to see it. Why are you so uncomfortable “forcing” someone not to discriminate, but you’re perfectly comfortable with the knowledge that people living in your nightmare of a world would face repeated discrimination?

          Do you not understand that their lives are impacted by discrimination? Your comfortable living in a world where a young girl can’t get flower delivery from any local florist simply because she’s an atheist? You think it’s fine for the only local grocery store in a small town to refuse service to any black person and force them to spend time and money to find a grocery store to sell them food? What if all the small towns next to it have a grocery store that does the same thing? Stop whining about how horrible it is for businesses to provide the same service to everyone and stop and really think about what it means! Gah.

        • Artor

          If I recall, the people who wanted to send flowers to Jessica had to find an out-of-state florist to do the delivery. Not so much a problem with a bouquet, but it could be a serious inconvenience for other products or services. If you can’t see the problem here, then your high school civics teacher failed you horribly, and I can’t help educate you. Seriously, think about it.

      • fin312

        Patheos is doing business with the public, therefore why is Mr. Mehta allowed to ban theists public accomodation to the friendly atheist blog because were “trolls”?

        • Artor

          Are you being deliberately dense, or can you actually not understand the difference here? Hemant is not writing for hire, he is writing his own opinions, and presenting them through the Patheos portal. Patheos has other theist pages for that readership.

          • fin312

            ok you f….ing idiot, Mr. Mehta is representing a publicly accomodated site, therefore he represents patheos. there is no reference to the opinions of the friendly atheist are soley Hemants and not that of patheos.com u moron.

            • Artor

              Thanks for answering my question- you actually are too stupid to understand this. Here’s an experiment; why don’t you write some insipid Bible propaganda, and demand than Hemant publish it for you on his blog. When he laughs in your face and tells you (very politely, he’s a nice guy) to fuck off, get yourself a lawyer and sue him. See how far you get. Don’t take my word for it, I’m no lawyer. I bet the experience will be educational at least.

              • fin312

                Could be bud, but lets see how stupid the FFRF is when the case gets thrown out of court because they have no legal standing, just like when they had no legal standing trying to get the National Day Of Prayer thrown out. If the asshole ACLU doesn’t get involved it’s baseless. It’s kind of funny, an atheist works for the florist in ? and doesn’t give a shit either way, thinks both sides of the ence are idiots

    • JWH

      From the Rhode Island Human Right’s Commission’s FAQ:

      This law makes it illegal to discriminate against a person because of their race, color, sex (including pregnancy status and sexual harassment), religion, ancestral origin, disability, age (18+), sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. The law covers places of public accommodation such as restaurants, theaters, public transportation, hotels, stores, gyms, hospitals, and any other establishment open to the public. Accommodations which are distinctly private in nature are not covered by this act.

      You can distinguish the Elane Photography case because Elane Photography has a much more clear First Amendment defense. Taking a photograph is an expressive act, and compelling a photographer to take photographs of an event she disagrees with is what we call “compelled speech” — a violation of her freedom of speech.

      I don’t think i see the same defense available to a florist, however; it’s going to be somewhat tougher to argue that delivering flowers amounts to an expressive act.

      That said, I question this lawsuit. it seems incredibly picayune. I have trouble putting “didn’t deliver flowers to an atheist” in the same category as “denied a job to an atheist” or “harassed a person on the job because of their atheism.”

      • ortcutt

        Yeah, I’m sure that people said the same thing about people who couldn’t get served at Southern lunch counters. “God, it’s so picayune. Why don’t they just go down the street to a colored lunch counter?” I don’t know why Public Accommodations discrimination seems minimal to some people. It not. It’s our society’s guarantee of an open, equal society on Main Street.

      • Revyloution

        Flower arrangement is one of the oldest forms of art. Many people do it for the sheer pleasure, but others have comoditized the art form.

        BTW, Elane has lost her appeals. Photographers in her state are likely to be compelled to do art they disagree with.

        • TheBlackCat13

          A lot of people consider baking a form of art, but that doesn’t protect restaurants. There is art on wallpaper, should wallpaper stores be exempt? What about people who frame paintings? How do we decide what is and is not art?

          Besides, the question isn’t whether it is art, the question is whether it is a service or product that is provided to the public.

        • Kengi

          The problem is they aren’t just “creating art”, but are also providing a service as a business. Despite Citizens United, businesses don’t have all of the same rights as individuals. Since the state is allowed to regulate commerce, reasonable restrictions are allowed so long as they are for the common good (the rights of minorities which have been traditionally discriminated against) and are implemented in the least restrictive means reasonably possible.

        • TheG

          “Photographers in her state are likely to be compelled to do art they disagree with.”

          No. Bigots in her state are likely to be compelled to treat people fairly in their public accommodations, even when they have a bias against the customer.

          We aren’t talking about a pastor (whose fundamental profession is religion) being forced to perform sexual acts that are against his religion. This also isn’t a painter being compelled to hang art in his home that is against his religion. This photographer chose to provide a service to the public, which is her right to do or not to do, and now will be required to accept the responsibility to the public that goes with that decision.

          • Revyloution

            Hemant is an author. Can I hire him to write a book extolling the virtues and beauty of Scientology If he refuses, can I sue him for refusing to provide a service?

            • http://www.facebook.com/abb3w Arthur Byrne

              You might have a better case, if his writings had been created as works-for-hire. As is, no, since his writing “business” is not a business of public accommodation.

            • coyotenose

              Hemant doesn’t advertise such services, so that’s absolute nonsense even discounting the fact that he could easily present non-bigoted reasons why he couldn’t or shouldn’t take the job.

            • TheG

              You betcha. Just as soon as there is a listing for Hemant in the Yellow Pages or Google as “author for hire”.

            • Isilzha

              OK, now it’s more than obvious you’re just JAQing off.

            • Kengi

              “Hemant is an author. Can I hire him to write a book extolling the virtues and beauty of Scientology If he refuses, can I sue him for refusing to provide a service?”

              If Hemant runs his business as a public accommodation, meaning his business is writing books for anyone who asks for one based upon their specification, then yes, you could sue him for refusing to provide that accommodation for you so long as you are in a protected class.

              I see no evidence, however, that Hemant has any such business open to the public. He sells books he has written, but doesn’t write them to anyone’s specifications. If he refused to sell one of his books to you because of your protected status, then you could also sue him since the selling of his books is open to the public and not part of a private club.

              Was that really so hard to figure out?

          • JWH

            Does it make a difference if she is OK with shooting photos of a same-sex couple, but she balks at shooting a same-sex wedding? And what if she schedules a studio session with the couple and agrees to shoot certain pictures, but refuses to shoot certain other poses because she does not feel comfortable with them as an artist? And does it matter if she is willing to shoot those studio poses for a straight couple but not a gay couple? You really, really risk getting into the weeds with this kind of thing, where a court (or human rights panel) starts passing judgment on works of art … a situation that the First Amendment is supposed to prevent.

          • Revyloution

            How would you feel if the KKK were suing a liberal atheist photographer for refusing to come to their event?

            • JWH

              Which is one of the permutations if a ruling against Elane Photography is allowed to stand. At least a few jurisdictions do, in fact, prohibit discrimination on the basis of political affiliation.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              I’d feel the KKK had a case. “I hate what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. It was a Jewish ACLU lawyer who worked for the KKK who wanted to march through Skokie, after all, so we know the KKK can choose to work with those it hates when its in their interests to do so.

              • TheBlackCat13

                The difference in that case is that the constitution gives you the right to assemble and protest no matter who you are. There are no such things as “protected classes” when it comes to protests. Simply standing on U.S. soil makes you a “protected class”.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  This is true. I had meant to add “where the jurisdiction prohibits discrimination based on political views” in the first sentence but somehow that didn’t make it in.

                  I don’t say I think the KKK would win or necessarily should win, either. But they’d have a case and ought to get a day in court, at least.

            • TheG

              Is the KKK a religion now? Is it a gender or sexuality? I don’t remember seeing those listed on OKCupid.

              Man, you come up with some lame comparisons, but this is really a stretch.

        • JWH

          Last I heard, the case was before the state supreme court. Did it rule against her, too?

        • Mario Strada

          As a former wedding photographer, there is little “art” in taking pictures at a wedding. It’s mostly an exercise in crisis management and crowd control. Art, except in very few instances, has little to do with it.

          • bethelj

            Why would anyone want to hire people who have negative feelings towards them to take their wedding pictures? There is clearly room for some passive aggressive resistance in photography, and you only have one wedding day. They’re taking a big chance on getting less than great pics.

    • McAtheist

      “I’m sorry, we don’t deliver flowers to men with goatees and hats. That is a clear indication of atheism, African ancestry or teh gay.” Do you get it now?

      • bethelj

        But the florist didn’t say she wouldn’t deliver to “someone like her,” she said she wouldn’t deliver to Jessica Ahlquist. Jessica cost their community quite a lot of money with this lawsuit. Yes, the school could have taken down the banner and not spent the money, but Jessica could have not sued when they denied her request as well. Money was spent – not Jessica’s, not the school board’s, but the community’s – because she made this stink. I don’t think you can prove that they refused to deliver based on her religion – which atheism isn’t anyway, as people here repeatedly say. If she’s persona non grata there, she made herself so deliberately.

  • Jasper

    If the florist refused service to a black person, on the basis of race, this would be open-and-shut.

    • baal

      Exactly. And religion (or lack thereof) is a protected class just like race.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        (or lack thereof

        Yes. For First Amendment purposes, atheism is considered a “religion.”

    • Sarah

      And if the florist refused service to a black person who had annoyed them, on the basis they’d done something that annoyed them, this would be an open-and-shut case too. This case resembles the latter situation much more than the former.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Nothing personal, it was a choice I made.

    It could hardly get more personal.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

      Exactly.
      It’s similar to a store owner saying “Nothing personal, but I refuse to serve Blacks or Jews.”

  • Kengi

    The libertarian view on this aspect of the Civil Rights Act is that the Invisible Hand of the Market (which I think sounds suspiciously like a sky god) is a better way to handle such discrimination, and some of the comments here seem to align with this view. The problem is that the free market isn’t always the most efficient market since people are involved.

    The theory goes that, if one florist is so bigoted as to refuse business, another business will always be willing to step in to take that money, balancing the equation. This assumes that, as a whole, the market always has making money as the sole goal.

    The problem, of course, is that people are often willing to spend money (which is similar to losing money or losing business) for emotional reasons. Even worse, groups of people tend to share those same emotions, often in the same geographic area. This is simple anthropology 101, which, unfortunately, many libertarians never studied.

    As happened in the Jim Crow era, and exemplified by this very case, entire markets end up being shut off to certain classes of people. Black people couldn’t find places to stay or eat when travelling. This obviously limited their civil rights.

    The Ron Paul acolytes in particular hate the notion that entire areas of the nation (states) can’t discriminate against anyone they don’t like, which is why he pushes so hard for repeal of the 14th Amendment which would invalidate the Civil Rights Act.

    I’m just a bit surprised to see such “magic market” thinking here in comments on this blog when faced with facts which prove otherwise.

    • The Captain

      Very good assessment. Spot on! And while you are certainly correct in the magical thinking of many libertarians views on civil rights and free markets (and markets in general), don’t underestimate that a very large amount of them understand that no market magic fixes the issue and want it that way. Many, many libertarians think that business should be able to run the atheist out of town. That the people in the south should have had the right to make the lives of blacks so bad they all left for the north (or somewhere else). There is a rather large strain of libertarians here in the US that view “freedom of markets” as a tool to economically bully the weak around. For them the denial of goods or service becomes a way for the either the majority mob, or minority elite to force their views on those, that in their minds, are inferior.

      • Kengi

        Point well taken.

    • Dustin

      Most libertarians I know, myself included, are just fine with the government protecting civil liberties. Is that not the consensus view?

      • coyotenose

        Unfortunately no. Consider that Ron Paul and Rand Paul are the de facto representatives of Libertarianism, and look up their comments and stances as a whole.

        • The Captain

          Ron Paul is a weird mix of nee-confederate and libertarian. He seems to adhere to the most hardened economic principles of the austrian libertarians, but on practical levels he becomes more concerned with the rights of “states” vrs “federal government” than that of individuals.

          • TheBlackCat13

            …and shrubberies.

      • The Captain

        No, not at all. Actually it would make you not a libertarian in the true sense. For the government to enforce civil liberties would require the state to break the nonaggression principle which libertarians hold above all, including decent morals.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I agree with coyotenose, unfortunately no. I have several libertarian friends (I live in the Bible Belt, they’re the “liberal” ones) and they feel the government should have a military for defense and that’s it. No protecting civil liberties, no environmental regulations, no infrastructure, no labor regulations, no food safety, nothing. All the government gets to do is protect the nation from outside military incursion. Everything else is handled by the free market.

      • Kengi

        Dustin – Check out the conflicts between paleolibertarians and neolibertarians. Ron Paul is representative of the paleolibertarians while Gary Johnson is more representative of neolibertarians.

        This last presidential election some leaders of the Libertarian Party broke ranks to endorse The Mitt instead of Gary Johnson, in part to bemoan the loss of Ron Paul in the Republican primaries.

        A core principle of the paleolibertarians is the restoration of state’s rights to a pre-14th Amendment time. You know, back when the Bill of Rights didn’t apply to state and local governments so they could keep things like slavery legal.

        Just listen to recent Ron Paul nonsense where he yammers on about hedonism and preaching a gospel.

        “Our nation is adrift, adrift in a wilderness where right and wrong have become subservient to a hedonism of the moment … I believe our country is in need of a spiritual cleansing.”

        “We much preach a gospel so full of compassion, a gospel so full of justice that it cannot be resisted.”

        He wants states rights so the establishment clause will no longer apply at the state and local level. Look at the racist views that came out of his newsletters. He want to get rid of the 14th Amendment so the Civil Rights Act would no longer apply.

        Still, you and your friends might find some soul mates among the Gary Johnson neolibertarian crowd.They tend to be strong civil rights adherents as well as having a more reasonable view of the markets and the role government must play at times. Many of them, for example, hate government subsidies of things like alt energy, but wouldn’t mind at all taxing carbon-based energy as a way of influencing the long-term markets. Which does sound more reasonable than the current system which subsidizes both.

    • JustSayin’

      “…the Invisible Hand of the Market (which I think sounds suspiciously like a sky god)…”

      Love it! I actually wrote something very similar regarding a hardcore Libertarian who used to post on a local atheist forum. I told him that his undying belief in the infallible “invisible hand of the free market” was verging on religious. He places as much faith in this concept as any theist does in his/her god of choice. Naturally, my point was disregarded.

  • Sam

    What she did was bigoted and bad business, but is this really grounds to sue over? She’s a private owner and should be able to do as she wishes.

    • Jasper

      If she’s in violation of the law – yes.

    • Jasper

      It really isn’t that dissimilar to why we go after nativity scenes – precedent. The 10-commandments monument in Austin Texas was grandfathered in because no one had complained about it before for so long.

      The lesson is to complain and object on the lesser items to ensure that the fact no one was bothering with them doesn’t become precedent for bigger infractions. “Well we’re allowed to do nativity displays, so why can’t we _____?”

    • Kengi

      What part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 14th Amendment don’t you understand? Those are laws of the land in the United States of America, and there is good reason for them.

    • Ross Thompson
      • Mario Strada

        I love the “Spanish or Mexican” part. I guess Salvadorians are OK? Peruvians?
        The “Spanish” part also speaks loudly of provincialism and ignorance. The odds of a Spaniard going to those restaurants in the south would be very slim and to be recognized as such (since most of them look very European) unlikely. Plus, during the Civil Rights era, Spain was under the Franco Dictatorship, which by and large would have agreed with most of the racists’ points.

  • pagansister

    As a former citizen of the great state of RI, I will be interested to see how this turns out. While I disagree with the florist’s refusal to deliver, proving that the owner’s reason was discrimination due to Jessica’s views may be difficult.

    • TheBlackCat13

      What other plausible reason is there?

      • pagansister

        With a good lawyer, I’m sure she can come up with a reason.

      • coyotenose

        They could say that they didn’t want to get involved in the controversy, but given the note and the overall history of the situation, it isn’t likely to fly with a judge.

        • TheBlackCat13

          Wouldn’t that still be based on her religious views, though?

        • dandaman

          WTF! If they don’t go out of their way to make the delivery public, they have no argument. I used to deliver flowers and we didn’t give a hoot who they were for, and we certainly didn’t go around talking about who got flowers from whom.

    • Kengi

      Proving they weren’t due to Jessica’s views might be harder. Remember, this isn’t a criminal case, so “beyond a reasonable doubt” doesn’t apply. “Clear and convincing evidence” is the standard. Unfortunately a lot will depend upon the personal views of the judge and how professional they are about their responsibilities regardless of personal views.

      • pagansister

        I tend to agree this may depend on the personal views of the judge—who, of course, should only apply the legal points to a decision–ie his/her professionalism, as you mentioned.

      • 3lemenope

        Nit: Actually, ‘Preponderance of Evidence’ is the standard in most civil actions. ‘Clear and Convincing’ is an intermediate standard used rarely for actions, such as Habeas petitions, where preponderance would be too weak and reasonable doubt would be too strong. If this is a bog-standard discrimination suit, then it is almost certainly judged by a preponderance standard.

  • keddaw

    Several components to the main question of Does it violate the Civil Rights Acts?

    1. Is this religious discrimination?

    Was the reason for denying service that Jessica was an atheist, or that she had done something viewed as bad for the community (I know, upholding the 1st Amendment, what an evil little girl)? If the latter I don’t believe she would necessarily be due any protection under law as any good American, irrespective of religion, race, gender etc. could, and arguably should, have done the same thing.

    2. Does the florist trade interstate?

    If the florist is local, delivers only to local people and sources all their raw materials locally, does the Civil Rights Act apply? Could this not ultimately be a states’ rights issue? Or does the very presence of this business on the internet define it as interstate and thus under the jurisdiction of the interstate clause?

    3. Is the website hosted in the US?

    If not there could be a whole other legal wrangle over whether a US business is legally bound to accept international orders etc. All getting a bit too complicated for my little brain.

    • Carmen

      In answer to your first two questions:

      1. There is a clear inference that the refusal to deliver flowers was due to religious discrimination. I am sure the florist will argue that it isn’t, but that is something a judge or jury can decide. Unlawful discrimination these days is very rarely proved by direct evidence – such as “No blacks allowed” – it is usually proved in court by indirect, circumstantial evidence.

      2. The florist most likely trades interstate. FFRF is a Wisconsin-based organization, and attempted to have flowers delivered in Rhode Island. So I think this very case shows that the florist was engaged in interstate commerce. While the Supreme Court has limited the Commerce Clause in recent years, it has generally been very broadly interpreted. See Atlanta Motel v. US, 379 US 241 (1964), (congress could regulate motel located near an interstate); Gonzales v. Raich, 545 US 1 (2005) (congress could criminalize production and use of home-grown cannabis even where state approved for medicinal purposes).

      The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits businesses who serve the public from engaging in unlawful discrimination, which includes religious discrimination. As a business owner who serves the public, I am NOT allowed to discriminate against what clients I accept depending on their religion, race, or gender. The notion that businesses can discriminate against customers for any reason is just plain wrong.

    • http://www.facebook.com/abb3w Arthur Byrne

      1) Whether the motive was no reason (allowed), political discrimination (allowed), or religious discrimination (unlawful) is a question of fact, to be addressed by a jury. However, I don’t consider the question a particularly serious one.

      2) The florist shop accepts phone and internet orders from outside the state; it is thus engaged in interstate commerce well within the scope of existing case law.

      3) The hosting provider appears US based.

      • fin312

        Don’t have to worry about a jury hearing it. The reason they refused to deliver was threats of violence to there employees and businesses if the delivery was made. It had nothing to do with what you mentioned. They asked for police escorts but were refused, but we wasted Thousands of taxpayer $’s for her police protection for the same “IDLE” threats.

        • http://www.facebook.com/abb3w Arthur Byrne

          That’s not the story they were telling the press at the time of this initial article; whether true might be an additional question of fact.

          If the florist reported receiving threats and was refused protection, they probably have grounds for a civil lawsuit of their own against the state; however, that does not protect them from their own civil liability under federal law.

          Given the FFRF is almost certaintly asking for damages including legal fees (though I’ve not checked the complaint to confirm), that makes it a civil controversy in excess of $20; unless both sides agree to waive their 7th Amendment right in favor of a bench trial, that has to be heard by a jury.

          • fin312

            Unfortunately I guess this will never make it that far, as I said in other rebuttals on this thread,if it had any merit the local a….hole for the ACLU Steven Brown would be all over it like a fly on shit.

  • http://twitter.com/Outcast_Kyle Edgar

    Looks like the FFRF is becoming a bit too trigger happy when it comes to suing. Any private has the right to make or not make bussiness with whomever they want. If I want to deny service in my property to persons wearing yellow shirts and red shoes, it is my right to do it, no matter how ridiculous it may be. The customers will decide if that is good for bussiness or not.
    Forcing people to trade with someone they don’t want it’s a violation of our liberties.

    • TheG

      Unfortunately, you are both right and wrong. You can refuse people wearing yellow shirts, but if people are wearing yellow shirts that depict protected class status (say, a yellow shirt declaring lesbianism or Mormonism), you can no longer discriminate.

      Red shoe wearers are not commonly discriminated against and are thus not a protected category. As soon as red shoes are only worn by Mexicans, you might find yourself in trouble.

      • http://twitter.com/Outcast_Kyle Edgar

        Actually you should be able to deny service to mexicans, lesbians, mormons or anyone you want for whatever reasons since its your bussiness and you can do anything you want with it. If people don’t like the, they can stop going there and it go bankrupt really quick. But if someone makes you serve those people you don’t want to serve, they’re taking off your liberty.

        • Ross Thompson

          We tried that. It turns out that if every restaurant, lodging house and store in town refuses to do business with people of color, that infringes on their liberty a hell of a lot more.

          Basically, what you’re saying is that any group of people the majority disapproves of can be run roughshod over, and that not letting people be victimised is an infringement of the victimiser’s rights. And that’s where I have to call bullshit.

          • http://twitter.com/Outcast_Kyle Edgar

            If a everyone does thet in a town, it’s just matter of time before someone makes a bussines that receives them. That bussiness will get a better profit since it’s the only one catering to a market. We’re talking about owners and bussiness, victims and victimisers. And as an owner you have the right to do whatever you want with your property and no one can forcé you to do otherwise.

            • The Captain

              ” it’s just matter of time before someone makes a bussines that receives them” absolutely false! See KENGI’s post a bit further down and my response on why this is complete garbage. You are either seriously lacking in historical anthropology or an economic bully trying to force other to do as you say.

            • Ross Thompson

              “If a everyone does thet in a town, it’s just matter of time before someone makes a bussines that receives them.”

              except that that’s not what happened, is it? We needed to pass laws to make sure that people couldn’t be victimised like this.

            • Isilzha

              No, you don’t have that “right” and you shouldn’t.

        • BruceMcGlory

          Paging Mr. Straight White Dude Privilege. Please pick up the courtesy CLUE phone.

          • http://twitter.com/Outcast_Kyle Edgar

            Sure, except that I’m not white. Good luck, keep trying.

        • TheBlackCat13

          “it’s just matter of time before someone makes a bussines that receives them.”

          An empirically false statement. This simply did not happen.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            And every time someone did try to open a store (if they did, it happened but rarely), “free market” pressure caused them to fall in line or close the store. In a free market, it’s totally legit for the KKK to inform you that you have a lovely store, and it’d be a shame if anything happened to it. It’d be safe if you start practicing racial discrimination though- otherwise, well, it’s made of wood and wood’s just so flammable! Accidents happen.

            And so public pressure is applied, the status quo is maintained, and a minority is continually denied access to an important market, infringing each individual’s rights to a horrific degree.

      • Revyloution

        Above I asked this question, would it be ok for the florist to deliver flowers to Jessica wearing an ‘Atheists burn in hell’ tshirt? Obviously, the free speech rights of the bigoted and ignorant are just as valid as everyone else.

        • TheBlackCat13

          I am not sure about the law on that subject, but probably.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Pretty sure that’s legal, yes. Kind of a jerk move, but totally legal. After all, t-shirts are protected political/religious vehicles of speech.

        • http://www.facebook.com/abb3w Arthur Byrne

          It also might have been legally acceptable (though morally outrageous) to deliver a second bouquet from the florist, of dead flowers with the “Atheists burn in hell” message.

          However, the florist wasn’t that clever.

        • Pattrsn

          Legal sure but not very bright. You are after all a florist. Harsh political statements aren’t something you’d want to be associated with.

          • 3lemenope

            Which, somewhat ironically, is the most plausible non-discriminatory reason why the florist refused service in the first place.

  • keynescoase

    Could you post followups to some of these stories, I would like to hear a positive outcome as in she loses her business and has to pay a huge fine or something like that.

    • coyotenose

      No. This is not something to lose one’s livelihood over. That’s foul.

      • keynescoase

        Maybe a fine or something? Can’t let them just get away with it, either. Maybe not their business, but a fine, censure, etc.

        • Jim Jones

          Pickets would be good.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I try to whenever I get the information!

  • Amenemhat1

    Great. This florist is in my area. Now I know where NOT to get my flowers, and Valentine’s is around the corner. An atheist should open shop right next door and take all the business!

    • McAtheist

      Nah! You should go in and tell them you want to send a shit-ton of flowers to declared atheists and atheist organizations…………make sure you film it for YouTube tho’.

      • Amenemhat1

        Don’t tempt me… you have my wheels turning… I just might.

    • McAtheist

      Nah! You should go in and tell them you want to send a shit-ton of flowers to declared atheists and atheist organizations…………make sure you film it for YouTube tho’.

    • fin312

      Ooh the same place that was voted “Best of R.I. florist 2012″. So if you are a Rhode Islander and you saw local news coverage you would have heard audio evidence that that threatened there employees and businesses if they delivered. These businesses weren’t afforded the same police protection Ms. Ahlquist was when she received her “IDLE” threats. What’s up with that? this ought to be amusing.

      • fin312

        I didn’t think anyone could come up with anything! It would be outright comedy if you could even think of justifying it.

  • Revyloution

    For everyone demanding this florist be burned at the stake, here are two hypotheticals to consider.

    1. A gay atheist florist is asked to deliver flowers to Fred Phelps with the card ‘We love you and love your good works, praise God for you and your kin.”

    2. An african atheist photographer is asked to come and take pictures of a KKK clan event.

    Can these people be forced to take these jobs? These are the things that make me nervous. The precedent you set with this lawsuit may make the things I brought up possible.

    • BruceMcGlory

      No one is wishing harm or violence on the florist, so cut the dishonest horseshit. These things make you “nervous” because you haven’t a frigging clue what you’re talking about.

      Lets see if you can thinky this through. What’s the MAJOR and OBVIOUS fucking difference between a a gay person refusing services to bigots, and bigots refusing services to a specific group of people.?
      Think real hard now.

    • TheBlackCat13

      1. Yes

      2. No, the law only protects “race, color, religion, sex, and national origin”. The KKK fits none of these. It is composed of white anglo-saxon protestants primarily, but as long as the photographer is not be refusing because of these characteristics it is fine.

      • Ross Thompson
      • Revyloution

        The religion of the KKK is what influenced their racism. They look at the passages that describe the children of Noah, and how they created the different races of man. Sure, their belief is hackneyed and obtuse, but it IS their believe. If the photographer refuses to shoot their event, it’s because of their religion.

        The loopholes you mentioned about Judaism are exactly what bothers me about this lawsuit. I don’t want the government forcing atheist florists to service Fred Phelps, and I sure as hell don’t want african atheist photographers to be forced to take pictures at a KKK event.

        People are jumping all over me on this, and I wish they would take the time to understand that I think the florist in question here was a bigoted a**hole, I’m worried that precedent in this case can be used against us just as much as it can be used against those we find distasteful.

        • Ross Thompson

          “I’m worried that precedent in this case can be used against us just as
          much as it can be used against those we find distasteful.”

          I think most people agree with that; they just look at the history of minorities being exluded from the market and see that as being a far greater evil than individual businesses being required to serve bigots.

        • TheBlackCat13

          Perhaps originally, but my understanding is that the KKK is much more of a nationalist organization than a religious one. For example they oppose both communism and immigration, neither of which are remotely religious issues.

          I have no problem with the precedent. The law is meant to protect all people equally, not just ones I like.

        • The Captain

          “if the photographer refuses to shoot their event, it’s because of their religion.” no, it’s because of the racism. It doesn’t matter where the racism comes from, just that it’s what the photographer is refuse to serve. The flip side to this is you can not sue a BBQ place that only sever pork, for discriminating against Muslims because they only serve pork. But if they put up a sign that said “no muslims allowed” then yes you can sue the shit out of them. Get it yet?

          Now if the photographer said they would work for christians, then yes, that would be wrong, and a violation of the law.

    • The Captain

      How about I ask you this. Should every car dealership within a state be allowed to not sell cars tot black people? If every car dealership in Alabama was owned by white people, should they be allowed to not sell cars to black people? If so, please then explain how the fuck black people are supposed to get to work and support their families, or even leave the state to move (on foot?, winter death march?)?

      • Revyloution

        I understand why services like the one you mentioned need the protection of the civil rights laws. I think there is a big difference between a car dealership and a small business like a florist or photographer.

        In a big business like a car dealership, the employee has the right to quit if he finds the work morally repugnant. The owners never have to deal with their clients one on one, and can hand down edicts from on high. Small companies like this florist and the photographer in the Elane case are owned, operated and run by one person. When the government forces a large company to comply, they are dealing with a large group of people who can choose to stay or leave if they don’t like the new laws. For small business individuals, this is the destruction of their way of life. It wouldn’t break my heart to hear of the florist that refused to service Jessica going out of business, but I would hate to see the Phelps clan, or the KKK using the same laws to force out the hypothetical people I mentioned.

        • TheBlackCat13

          So how many people does it take?

          And what if you live in a remote area that only has small businesses?

          • Revyloution

            Honestly, that’s what I’m struggling with. People keep jumping on my like I’m some fundie with a cross up my arse. I honestly don’t know! I’m trying to work it out in this argument. My frustration with the law in the US is that there is no proportions to it. My tiny construction company is treated exactly the same way that Halliburton is. There is a world of difference between me struggling with my 4 employees and a multi-national company that lives off no-bid government contracts.

            If I lived in Wesbourough, I wouldn’t want to take Phelp’s money. Life is too short to have to live with an angry idiot like that for the time it would take to remodel his compound. But if the law see’s my refusal to take on his job, then I could loose my livelyhood from a lawsuit. I know from personal experience how working for clients that are morally repugnant can bring harm. I felt depressed and miserable after being forced to hear the bigoted rants of a Fox News watching client. If I had known I would have spent 5 months listening to that garbage, I would have refused the job in the first place.

            Then, I guess I would have been sued for discriminating against his religion and lost everything.

            • The Captain

              Outside of tax law when the hell is there “proportions” to the law? Can I speed a little bit if I’m driving a bus, but can go as fast as I want by myself? Can I kill a few people if I work for myself? Why should Halliburton have to adhere to building standards and you’r small company doesn’t? DO the lives of the people in that building now have to depend on the size of the construction company who builds it being held to the same laws as everyone else?

              And you still don’t get it, watching FOX news is not a protected class, you can not take that client all you want.

              • Revyloution

                Yes, but can I refuse to remodel Fred Phelps compound because I think his religion is hate filled bile?

                I wasn’t referring to building codes (though, they are different depending on the size of the building) I was referring more to tax code, and rules regarding corporate officers. I’m not suggesting that I need less regulation, I’m saying that giant corporations need MORE. I’m saying that the harm a giant corp can do is larger than what small business can. I’m not someone who screams to get the government off my back. I actually think that my industry is well regulated by state and fed. Its the GE, Enron, and Haliburtons of the world that we need to start keeping a stronger watch on.

                • TheBlackCat13

                  I agree that large corporations need either more regulation or more enforcement of existing regulations, probably both, but that is completely independent of the issue we are discussing here.

                  The question is whether a small business has the right to discriminate. I still say no. As I said, the law protects all views, not only those views we like. The same law that prevents you from turning down Fred Phelps also prevents someone from turning down you.

                  How would you like it if the only architectural engineer you could hire refuses to do business with atheists?

                • Revyloution

                  Oops, I was saying goodbye one thread above when I saw your response.

                  Thanks for the great dialogue. You’ve helped me straighten this issue out in my head quite a bit.

                  Ciao, keep the un-faith :)

              • Revyloution

                We’ll, The Captain, I need to get back out in the field, my office work is all finished.

                Thank you for the great argument, you’ve given me quite a bit to think about. I think you have convinced me that this lawsuit against the florist needs to go through, but it still makes me feel uneasy about forcing someone to do something that is against their personal morals (no matter how horrible those morals are). Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world, and we should never let the perfect get in the way of the good. Perhaps the ‘perfect’ would be to allow everyone to exercise their morality how ever they choose, but the ‘good’ would be to allow minorities to be able to function at every level of the economy without fear of refusal of service.

                • The Captain

                  Hey man, it was fun and cool. You made me think about a lot too. I Also need to get out of here. I see what you are saying about large corps and regulations, and a agree that they do need more (read: a lot!). My point was not about general regulations but about refusal of service and the effects on the customers. But it’s been a fun conversation.

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              Gee, maybe it’s because you’re acting like a fundie with a cross up his ass…

              DISCRIMINATION IS NOT OKAY, END OF. Now stop fucking arguing that it’s okay to fucking discriminate against protected classes because “free market”.

              • 3lemenope

                A person should be able to discuss an idea even if everyone around them *just knows in their gut* that it’s wrong to even consider it. He’s not acting like a fundie with a cross up his ass, he’s acting like a guy who wants to explore a notion by asking probing questions and testing the contours of the prevailing wisdom.

                Now, most people, in my experience, are utterly incapable of distinguishing between when a person is discussing for the sake of exploration and clarification and when a person is asserting for the sake of being a jerk. The Internet, such as it is, makes that even harder. That should weigh even more heavily towards a precautionary presumption that when a person raises an objection to some piece of accepted wisdom that they honestly want to talk about whether it is in fact wise, and are not just doing it to piss you off or take away all your rights.

        • The Captain

          Your response was entirely about how employees would handle fining the work morally repugnant, but my question was about the customers rights. What matter is the size of the dealership payroll to the rights of black people to buy a car? So if every car dealership in Alabama was a “small” business it’s fine if black people cant buy cars then? Why does the size matter to exempting them from the law? Are you really arguing that a one man business can sell mercury laced penis pills since it only being a small business exempts it from FDA regulations?

          If your religion prevents you from doing your job, you need to find another job. That applies to anyone, no matter how big their business is.

          Also car dealerships are actually usually quite small. Most employ just a handful of people and are “small business. I know of several that employ 4-6 people at any time, are you telling me that’s a “big business”? The last car I bought I dealt directly with the owner of the dealership and his son.

          “I think there is a big difference between a car dealership and a small business like a florist or photographer.” See the problem is any difference you come up with is to differentiate business who can and can not discriminate is going to be arbitrary. Just apply the same standard to them all.

          • Revylloution

            The mercury laced pills are a non-sequitur

            The difference I’m trying to make is between selling a commodity, and selling your personal services, A photographers job is to interact personally with the client. They make a personal connection so that the photos capture the spirit and essence of the event. Buying a car is about getting the price you want, and filing the paperwork out properly.

            Perhaps the woman in the Elane Photography case went about her refusal the wrong way. Perhaps she should have said ‘I hate everything about you, and I will take terrible pictures of your wedding. That will be $500 up front, non-refundable’

            I havn’t made my mind up on this issue, I’m just expressing my fears that the same kinds of lawsuits may be put on OUR community for the same types of work refusals. Perhaps the right course of action for all small business owners would be to simply state up front that if you want services from me, you won’t be happy with them.

            • The Captain

              “The mercury laced pills are a non-sequitur”, no the argument is completely relevant. You are fundamentally asking that a business be exempt from the law based on the size of the business. I’m just trying to figure out where you are drawing these arbitrary lines.

              “They make a personal connection so that the photos capture the spirit and essence of the event. Buying a car is about getting the price you want, and filing the paperwork out properly.” You are defining how all people should view a business transaction, by what you, and only you think they should be. Many people buy cars from the same dealership for years (even generations) based on personal relationships and customer service. And many people never give two shits to know their wedding photographer personally (or the other way around). This is all just YOUR preference for how YOU want things to be, but the law does not revolve around your preferences. It must apply to all equally regardless of what some third party thinks their relationship with their business should be.

              And honestly I still don’t see what you’re protecting our community from? Atheist just like anyone else should not be able to say “I won’t serve Jews in my small business”. Are you honestly try to protect my right as a small business owner to discriminate? If so, you can stop, that’s not a right I want you to fight for.

    • Pattrsn

      Did someone ask that the florist be burned at the stake?

      Here’s the ideal outcome. The florist loses the suit, has to pay a nominal fine or apologize. Businesses in the area now have an excuse to provide service to atheists without fearing a backlash and eventually people look back and have trouble believing that people were ever denied service because they were atheist.

    • Kengi

      In your first example, that’s already the case, and I’m fine with it. No business is allowed to discriminate based on religion. So, the question is, since the gay atheist florist must deliver those flowers to Phelps, why should the Catholic florist get special pleading just because they are Christian or part of the majority?

    • fin312

      This lawsuit is going nowhere, If it had any merit, the local A…..hole of the ACLU Steve Brown would have been all over it like that fly on shit I said in other rebuttals. My guess is it won’t be heard because they don’t have legal standing, just as they didn’t when they tried to stop the National Day of prayer.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    I kinda read that in Cartman’s voice — “Whateva! I do what I want!”

  • ByeBye

    Watching religion die is a highlight in and of itself.

    But watching it kicking and screaming as it draws its last pathetic breaths is truly a privilege to behold.

    In a generation or three from now people will be looking back on these times like we look back on Woodstock.

  • keddaw

    One key point that no-one has mentioned – if the florist receives no state benefit then what they do with their property is their business and none of the state’s. Anyone saying what a private individual HAS to do with their property is not a friend of freedom. However, if the business is subject to business rates/taxes (as opposed to individual taxes) then the state has an interest and can rightly tell them not to be sexist/racist/parochial. But one must be clear about the difference between me selling a car and the car lot at the end of the street. I have the right to refuse Jews, blacks, stock car racers if I so choose, the company at the end of the block with the rate discount and the limited liability does not.

    • Kengi

      What part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 don’t you get? No, you don’t have those rights as a business owner in the United States of America. Go back to the Jim Crow past if you can’t remember what it was like under such an imaginary free market which never actually existed.

      When the majority has sway, there will be no company at the end of the block which caters to the discriminated against minority, because the majority will run them out of business or actually just burn them down while the local law (which is also part of that majority) does nothing.

      Don’t schools teach civics or history any more? I know math is important, but at least some time needs to be spent on civics and history.

      • keddaw

        It depends what constitutes a ‘business’. If a private individual decides to offer their services they can equally well refuse service based on any criteria they like. A business doesn’t have that freedom.

        • Kengi

          Scooby, the “florist” is a person who operates a business selling and delivering flower arrangements The fact that the business is owned by a “private individual” doesn’t exempt that person who owns the business from the Civil Rights Act when operating her business.

          What “state benefit” are you babbling about that this florist does or doesn’t receive? Regardless of any benefit, the floral business this woman operates must comply with the Civil Rights Act regardless of any “state benefit”, and the owner of that business (the “private individual” must make sure of that compliance or face the legal consequences up to the limit of her liability.

          You do understand that we are talking about a person who owns and operates a business here, don’t you? We aren’t talking about some random person on the street who was asked to deliver flowers and is being sued for their refusal to stop going to the market and deliver them,

          • keddaw

            I thought we’d moved on from the specifics to the general principle.

            Like, if I spend years reconditioning a ’67 Ford Mustang and place an advert for sale, am I compelled by law to sell it to whomever offers the amount, or can I base my decision on race, religion, or expected usage – I don’t want to sell it to a banger racer after spending so much time and effort on it. Or does my position as a private seller rather than a ‘business’ allow me to discriminate? But if I bought parts from another state, or my prospective buyer is from another state, am I engaged in interstate commerce. If I buy two Fords and improve them to make a profit is it then a business? 3? 4? Where do my private actions as an individual cease to be private and become the business of the state to determine what I can and can’t do with my property?

            This is why I would draw the line at state benefit – either direct help (reduced rates, business tax rather than personal) or indirect (limited liability, legal separation of individual and company). At this point the state has a vested interest in the activities of the corporate citizen rather than the private one. That’s not the current law, but it’s where I’d allow/expect the state to enforce equal rights.

            Further, how do we determine what is a protected group? For example, is it not totally ridiculous for Christians and whites in the US to be protected under this when Ayn Rand followers or Communists are not? Why does a belief in God get a pass but a belief in aliens not – if I was hiring, I’d probably hire someone who believed in aliens over someone who believed in Noah’s flood, but I’m not legally permitted to discriminate against that.

            • Kengi

              “I thought we’d moved on from the specifics to the general principle.”

              Nope. We moved on from florists to other businesses and organizations (corporations such as the KKK and authors of books).

              As for selling your car which you modified to increase its value, you are supposed to follow tax and other laws regarding reporting your income from the sale even if you only work on one car at a time. You can report the income on personal taxes, or as an S-corp or however you want.

              As for not selling it to a “banger racer”, you can do so as long as it’s not just an excuse for not selling to Christians or blacks or other protected group.

              ” is it not totally ridiculous for Christians and whites in the US to be protected under this”

              You are confused. Whites aren’t a protected class. Just because a Jew (or atheist) is white doesn’t mean they automatically can’t be in another protected class. Religion (no matter which one) is a protected status because of past, persistent discrimination. Just look at the history of oppression of Catholics and Jews (and other religious groups) in this nation. Just because it’s another group of religious people who did the persecuting doesn’t mean there isn’t a history of discrimination when it comes to religion.

              If you honestly (which I doubt) think people who believe in little green men are being systematically discriminated against in labor practices, do feel free to file a suit on their behalf (making sure you find someone to use for that test case) and bring it up through the courts. If you can demonstrate the same criteria used for other groups, you will have your protections for the UFO crowd.

              There’s no dark room of men in black hoods making these decisions. They are made in brightly lit rooms by people in black robes after written and oral arguments. I think it’s a pretty good, open system, despite some flaws.

              Most of your arguments are just the notion of how unjust it is that you aren’t allowed to discriminate against others for any reason you want. Imagine a nation of people who think the same way with no protections such as the Civil Rights Act. In fact, you don’t have to imagine what happens. Just read some history.

              • keddaw

                “You are confused. Whites aren’t a protected class.”

                Yes they are. “on grounds of race, color, religion or national origin” is mentioned in Title II and III.

                The reason I can’t file a suit for people who believe in aliens is because the generic catch all that would have to be used would include people who should be discriminated against. (Like the religious.) And that’s the issue here – the law is written in such a way as to not specifically mention groups and so it generalises to the extent that white becomes a protected class (which may turn out to be useful if demographics keep shifting), as is Evangelical, as is natural born American. None of these groups receive discrimination, are likely to receive discrimination and do not deserve or need to be protected specially by law. Sorry, that’s probably tending towards my aversion to hate crime legislation…

                “Most of your arguments are just the notion of how unjust it is that you aren’t allowed to discriminate against others for any reason you want.”

                No. My arguments are that private individuals with private property should not be forced by the state to engage in a supposedly voluntary transaction against their will. Like I was trying to get to – businesses, by their nature, should operate by different rules than individuals if they want to maintain separate status from the owner(s). I would like a nice line drawn between an individual and a business.

                We also run into trouble when people run ‘businesses’ from their home. Should Jews be forced to allow nazis into their houses, KKK members allow non-whites? Should individuals, in order to run a basic service from their home, be forced to make it wheelchair accessible? We need a reasonable line between where certain legislation kicks in and it is not as clear as it should be at present.

    • skmind

      Because it is not key at all. If you are given a business license, you are required to live up to the terms.

      • keddaw

        Then perhaps we should be looking at the fact that one needs a license to sell flowers…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=515019810 Joseph Sileo

    I actually have to agree with the florist on this one. Still a bitch on wheels, but I think independent owners should be able to decide for themselves who they choose to serve.

    • skmind

      Nope. If you provide services to the public under a business license, you are required to NOT discriminate.

  • Ed R.

    “It’s my freedom of speech I refuse orders when I want and I take orders when I want… I just chose not to do it. Nothing personal, it was a choice I made. It was my right, so I did that. I’m an independent owner and I can choose whoever I want, whenever I want.”

    It’s like reading the thoughts of a child. “Don’t tell me what to do! You’re not the boss of me!”

    • keddaw

      The corollary of which is “I AM a child, please tell me what to do, oh government boss of me.”

      • Ed R.

        I was referring to the way the person was speaking. He uses the pronoun “I” 10 times in 4 short sentences, and the language is indicative of somebody who has a childish way of thinking about things and a rather unsophisticated view of the world. In other words, he’s probably a dumbshit.

  • rwlawoffice

    The FFRF is quickly becoming a knee jerk organization that will try to argue everything in the name of simply not staying quiet. I hope they continue because the more they do the less credibility they will have. As for this case, I suspect that they will lose unless there is proof that the florist did this for religious discrimination. There are a host of reasons that are perfectly outside of religious discrimination that could have been her reason. She may very well have the school district as her customer and did not want to alienate them, maybe she doesn’t like her political views, or as others have said, maybe she just wanted to stay out of the controversy. Either way it looks petty and no matter how many times you guys say it, it is not the same as the civil rights actions of the 60′s. Your persecution complex is getting out of hand.

    What would you think about a church or religious institution contacting the FFRF asking it to represent them on a case where their religious views are being attacked. If the FFRF refused to represent them would they be within their rights? They might be if the case would conflict with other clients, but it would be an interesting issue for them.

    • skmind

      What would you think about a church or religious institution contacting the FFRF asking it to represent them on a case where their religious views are being attacked

      What I think of all churches like that: they are demanding unearned privileges.

  • fin312

    Print the rest of the story accurately please!! Just as the young lady in question received “IDLE” threats, so did any florist who decided to deliver to her!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mortisha.brown Mortisha Brown

    I truly believe in my faith and I respect other’s faith too. This is a quite disturbing, an issue that leads the florist into racism.
    http://www.designersmark.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/salimpuzza Salimpuzza Yap

    Each and every store, or esepcially online stores have their own policies. If it states that they have the right to reject to deliver then we have to follow policies. It is important that a customer knows each house rules of a certain shop. But in the other hand, another unsatisfied customer has been dropped.

  • fin312

    How nice that “Twins Florists” Voted #1 florist in R.I. this past year got all Valentines Day deliveries on schedule. Lets see some Muslims got them, some people of Jewish faith, atheists, humanists etc.etc. got them. They even gave me enough of a discount so I was able to purchase flowers for my significant other. What a nice place to do business. Sounds like a non accomodating business to me! Oh to settle the lawsuit FFRF, will it be ok to send the attention whore black roses!!

    • fin312

      I didn’t think anyone could come up with something that actually makes sense.

  • Edilberto Durano

    This issue seems to go on forever. Every one’s always craving attention.
    Ed of EdelweissFlower.com


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