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Freedom From Religion Foundation Sues Twins Florist over Ahlquist Flower Flap

The suit alleges the florist violated state laws when it denied "full and equal access to public accommodations" by refusing to fulfill a flower order to Jessica Ahlquist.


The Freedom From Religion Foundation has sued a local flower shop for its refusal to deliver flowers to a teenage atheist and former Cranston High School West student whose lawsuit against the district led to the removal of the fabled prayer banner in the school's auditorium.

The complaint (attached to this story) alleges that Marina Plowman, owner of Twins Florist, violated state law by denying a flower order that they were trying to get delivered to Ahlquist.

In the complaint, the FFRF states that Plowman denied the organization "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."

At the time, Cranston police officers were guarding Ahlquist's house, and she was being cyberbullied by people upset with her involvement in the case against the school district, which was brought by the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on Ahlquist's behalf.

Reached by telephone, Plowman said she couldn't immediately comment on the lawsuit, but said she has suffered greatly from the whole ordeal.

The FFRF filed complaints with the state Commission for Human Rights last year when the group was reportedly denied flower orders by three different local flower shops. 

Plowman said she received threats and harassing calls, emails and other messages after news of the FFRF complaint surfaced last year. 

"It was a horrible two weeks," she said. "They threatened me and it was a hard and difficult situation."

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Another complaint was filed against Flowers by Santilli but they "chose [to] pursue mediation through the commission" and a hearing is set for March, according to a release.

The new lawsuit asks the court to grant permanent injunction against Plowman for further acts of discrimination or retaliation and seeks court costs and damages.

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Joe The Plumber February 03, 2013 at 08:17 AM
Paul is a public relations consultant for the atheist movement. Doing a great job there Pauley.
Tim Observant February 03, 2013 at 01:26 PM
"...representing their fellow atheists in a way that allows us to dislike them even more." Who exactly are "us"? I doubt you can speak for every theist in the United States personally, and I don't think they would appreciate you putting words into their mouths especially since they are not present to defend themselves. I have a hard time believing all theists are hateful, because I know many who are not like that. They may dislike atheistic-like philosophy, but they don't hate the person directly. Not to mention there are different shades of atheism/agnosticism/skepticism with different levels of conviction and understanding. Not all atheists are the same, just like not all theists are the same either. That's why I don't put much faith in polls. It's never a true accurate representation of one group that has many different branches of understanding within it.
Dilberth February 03, 2013 at 09:29 PM
Cranston RI seems to be thoroughly populated with hateful people. The slings and arrows that Jessica Ahlquist had to endure were thrown by Christians. They think they own the hill and anybody that attempts to reside on the hill will be an outcast. Joe: You are intellectually impoverished.
Tom at Oak Lawn February 03, 2013 at 09:42 PM
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord? There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge. Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. PS 14
Bill Santagata February 03, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Based on what you're saying, your mother sounds like she was acting within the law, especially considering she would have served a black woman if she insisted and signed a waiver understanding that the salon was not trained in styling that texture of hair. It isn't really a "loophole" to kick someone out for not dressing or acting appropriately: these are not protected classes. But they have to be genuine. You can't kick out every black person to come into the store under the guise that they are dressed like "gang members." Eventually someone will file a complaint and it will go to mediation before the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission, and they will decide whether the business owner was in the right or not.
Bill Santagata February 03, 2013 at 09:58 PM
Yes, indeed it is foolish to say there is no God. The Koran gives us additional guidance on foolishness: people who do not believe in Allah of Islam are fools as well: "And who forsakes the religion of Ibrahim but he who makes himself a fool, and most certainly We chose him in this world, and in the hereafter he is most surely among the righteous. When his Lord said to him, Be a Muslim, he said: I submit myself to the Lord of the worlds. […] And they say: Be Jews or Christians, you will be on the right course. Say: Nay! We follow the religion of Ibrahim, the Hanif, and he was not one of the polytheists. Say: We believe in Allah and in that which had been revealed to us, and in that which was revealed to Ibrahim and Ismail and Ishaq and Yaqoub and the tribes, and in that which was given to Musa and Isa, and in that which was given to the prophets from their Lord, we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit. If then they believe as you believe in Him, they are indeed on the right course, and if they turn back, then they are only in great opposition, so Allah will suffice you against them, and He is the Hearing, the Knowing." (The Holy Quran, Al-Baqara, 124-137).
Joe The Plumber February 03, 2013 at 10:08 PM
Dilberth, A recent University of Minnesota national study showed that atheists are the most hated group in America. The study concluded: "The most recent data shows that atheists are more distrusted and despised than any other minority and that an atheist is the least likely person that Americans would vote for in a presidential election." Cranston residents are no different than the rest of America.
Dilberth February 03, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Tom: HA! There is a nationally organized group that call themselves, "Fools For Christ." They have chapters all over. Who then are the fools? P. S. The fool says in his heart, there is a god.
Paul Auger February 03, 2013 at 11:00 PM
Joe it may be true that a study talks about an emotional reaction people have to a group . That does not mean that the perception is accurate or evidence based nor does it mean that we should use it to make decisions. Data is the beginning of interpreting studies, We look at who produced the study. who they sampled, what they asked, how many people they asked, the make up of the group, what statistical analysis they applied Similar studies would have produced similar results during different periods at one time the "blacks" were most hated, another it was the Jews,women may have been the most looked down upon at one time, Irish Catholics were once the most despised.Just because we could measure them as "the most hated" at a certain time does not mean that we should give credence to the hate. More likely means is that this group is not understood,we hate what we don't understand. As we learn more about these groups we shed our fear and look back on it as the illogical. The thing about atheists is that they apply the scientific method to ALL things including the myths that people of clung to for ages. The truth is that these myths like anything else are not above being challenged. When other ideas are proved wrong and other better more useful evidenced based ideas take there place the public opinion of atheist will change. So Joe you might have a study that says atheist are the most hated group in the world but your use of the data is way off.
Joe The Plumber February 03, 2013 at 11:07 PM
Ok there Pauley....I guess this study was wrong too. University of British Columbia study finds:. "Atheists are one of the most disliked groups in America." Pauley... you are in serious denial. But then you are an atheist and by nature you are in denial.
Paul Auger February 03, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Joe read what I wrote, I did not say the study was wrong. In fact I said it did say that atheist are the most hated. I was questioning your application of the data. The fact that atheist are mistrusted and not liked does not apply to the twins florist case what is in question here is not the relationship between theist and non theist but the behavior of Ms Plowman. You are "mixing issues" this is not about theists and atheists. It is about the law. The question is did Twins Flowers make a business decision that ran contrary to the law. This is a LEGAL issue not a religious one, Twins clearly broke the law..They refused to allow someone that held a different religious view than they hold equal access their service that is a violation of§ 11-24-2 Discriminatory practices prohibited. – No person, being the owner, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent, or employee of any place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement shall directly or indirectly refuse, withhold from, or deny to any person on account of race or color, religion, country of ancestral origin, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges of that public place. The dissuasion here is about discrimination not religion. You don't want to talk about the real issue so you toss out a study that has nothing to do with the REAL issue-was the law broken or not?
Dilberth February 04, 2013 at 12:43 AM
There is a way for Ms. Plowman to extricate herself from her legal predicament. This could be considered a hate crime. If it does wind up in a criminal court, the alternative would be for her to plead an insanity defense. After all, it is widely acknowledged that religion is a mental illness. Just saying.
Paul Auger February 04, 2013 at 01:07 AM
Dilberth there is a problem with your insanity defense theory, Use of the insanity defense means you did not understand the consequences of your actions I don't think this was the case. Ms. Plowman knew who she was dealing with. She knew the FFRF would make this PUBLIC. Plowman knows all publicity is good publicity and the free advertisement would be priceless. I don't think she thought this would go to court I just think she thought it would go to the media,.If she looses the suit she will have lost more than she gained. Was it worth it? If she wants to claim insanity she is crazy like a fox.
Paul Auger February 04, 2013 at 02:41 AM
So let me get this straight Joe you are making the claim that The refusal to deliver was based solely upon the threats being made to Ms. Ahlquist . Who was threatening Jessica? Atheist? NO! Theist were, mostly the "turn the other cheek" Christians. so I have two things I would ask you. First how would they know Twins would be delivering to Jess? Would Twins tell them? Were they hanging out outside her home? others made deliveries with no problem. Secondly I have already established that the only ones threatening Jess were theist, mainly Christians, mostly Catholics. Based on your comments am I right to assume that you would assess the theist, christian and catholic community as being a dangerous group prone to violence?
Joe The Plumber February 04, 2013 at 05:09 AM
The real issue, Pauley, is that the intolerance of atheists and your utter contempt for religion is demonstrated by this very lawsuit. Actions such as this is precisely the reason that atheists are hated. The studies are a statisticl proof of that.
Joe The Plumber February 04, 2013 at 05:19 AM
I'll tell you who does not have to claim insanity.......the written word in the two previous comments are proof enough.
badger83 February 04, 2013 at 10:58 AM
Joe, Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If you have any verifiable proof of your "god" please share it with us. With your help, by providing evidence, you can help change the minds of millions of atheists around the world. Then who will you hate and distrust?
Give me a break February 04, 2013 at 12:58 PM
We as a community need to stop giving in to the FFRF and their supporters provocations. They will slowly fade away if we stop matching their " I know you are but what am I schoolyard name calling ". Without faith in any form is a world without hope. A world without hope can be a very sad bitter existence. Don't let their bitterness drag you down.
Paul Auger February 04, 2013 at 01:19 PM
Give Me a Break the only bitterness I see is coming from a handful -not all of the people of faith on this blog. I would agree that I and others that are having a respectful meaningful and fact based discussion should not let the bitterness of other get us down, and I have not nor will I allow that to happen,Thank you for your kind encouraging words-even if they were not directed at me, With that said I would like to ask you this, Is faith needed to have hope? As a former minister I had less hope then I ever did when I once looked outside of myself to an external god for guidance, help, love and protection. Once I shed the mythology of a god and saw I was a strong competent caring person with a community that loves and supports me for who I am warts and all. Then and only then did I have hope. I gained hope by letting go of faith. So is faith NEEDED to have hope?
Dilberth February 04, 2013 at 04:26 PM
"Faith is believing in something that you know ain't so." - Mark Twain
Tom at Oak Lawn February 04, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Now faith IS being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.
Paul Auger February 04, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Strange Tom I have more hope without faith then I ever had with faith. I am a better person as well.
Tom at Oak Lawn February 04, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Paul -- I don't understand. What are you hopeful for? What are you looking forward to?
Paul Auger February 04, 2013 at 05:20 PM
I am hopeful about all sorts of things. that I am learning and growing and connecting to more and more people. That each day I am taking positive actions to make my life, the lives of people I care about and even some people I dont know and might never now better. I look forwards to all the new and exciting changes that will take place in the lives of my loved one and my own life there are all sorts of things I am hopeful about and look forwards to in this life. THIS life is wonderful and exciting because I make it so, not because I am looking to some one or some thing out side of me to do the work for me, With that said as interesting as this conversation might be I don't want to derail the conversation. As I said before this has NOTHING to do with the existence of god. Who likes who and does not like you holds no bearing on the main topic of this blog. being a theist, poly theist or atheist has nothing to do with this. This is about the choice a business owner made and its standing in relation to the law. Thats all nothing more
Joe The Plumber February 04, 2013 at 06:21 PM
Skunk83, I do not feel a need to prove the existence of God as much as you do to deny His existence. But the vitriolic nature in which you pursue that end puts you in the "most hated" group in America according to a number of studies.
Joe The Plumber February 04, 2013 at 06:33 PM
The problem Pauley is that you are "connecting to more and more people" in a manner by which you are causing them to dislike atheists even more than they do now. You and your atheist friends have shown on this blog, an intolerance and contempt for religion that is further demonstrated bythe actions in this lawsuit. Actions such as this are the reason that atheists are hated and are harmful to your own cause. That is the choice you make for yourself. You and your fellow atheists are responsible for the prevailing negative attitudes that most people have for atheists. This simple cause and effect relationship seems to escape your grasp.
badger83 February 04, 2013 at 07:01 PM
Glad you're finally awake Joe. You're so good at posting links, I figured you'd find me proof somewhere?? Since you like doing research here's one for you. Search for "the happiest countries" and then "the most atheistic countries". You'll see the lists are very similar. Maybe the rest of the civilized world is on to something! Put down your babble and buy yourself a science book. One has stories in it, the other has useful knowledge.
Joe The Plumber February 05, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Try this one Badger. University of Minnestoa study concludes: ". Atheists are at the top of the list of groups that Americans find problematic in both public and private life" http://www.soc.umn.edu/~hartmann/files/atheist%20as%20the%20other.pdf
Small Change February 05, 2013 at 03:27 PM
=I would agree that I and others that are having a respectful meaningful and fact based discussion should not let the bitterness of other get us down, and I have not nor will I allow that to happen,= So when your folks (particular Ms. Lion heart) refer to Christianity as believing in 'Sky fairies and Zombie Christ', and saying Christ was not a vampire nor a zombie, he was clearly a liche- an undead wizard. That is your idea of a respectful, meaningful and fact based discussion?
Cranston Resident February 05, 2013 at 06:40 PM
You let go of faith (in God) because God did not cater to your insignificant demands that he do something for you. God does not bargain for your faith. You cannot demand action from God and expect to be blessed by Him. You were arrogant in your demands and you are bittered by His unwillingness to meet your deadlines. Faith is not about believing only if you get what you want Paul. And, the fact that God did not grant your wishes like some genie in a bottle is no proof of His non-existence.

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