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Rhode Island flower shops shun atheist teenager

There’s a war over roses in Rhode Island, where a slew of flower shops allegedly refused to deliver a bouquet to a 16-year-old atheist who had fought to have a prayer banner removed from her high school.

The skirmish began when the girl’s school, Cranston West High School, hung a banner titled “School Prayer.” The banner’s text appealed to “Our Heavenly Father” -- text that clearly violates the 1962 Supreme Court decision that prohibits mandatory religious prayer in public schools.

The 16-year-old student, Jessica Ahlquist, who identifies as an atheist, fought to have the school banner removed -- a court battle she won earlier in January.

But the victory party was cut short over discrimination by -- of all people -- the city’s flower vendors. When the group Freedom for Religion Foundation, a national organization that fights to keep the separation of church and state, tried to send Ahlquist a congratulatory bouquet, no less than four local flower vendors refused to fill the order.

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