Can a flower shop refuse service to "white nationalists" online?

What goes around comes around, I suppose.

An online florist based in Chicago has adopted a new policy which seems to be custom made for controversy and court action. If you want to order any flowers from them at their website you’ll need to answer a question first and it has to do with whether or not you are willing to condemn various things. Give the “correct” answer and you proceed to browse their offerings. Give the “wrong” answer and you are launched away from the online store and will be unable to shop there. (CBS Chicago)

An online flower shop that’s based in Chicago is asking potential customers to answer a question about their politics. If they don’t give the right answer they can keep their money.

The pop-up comes on the screen before you can order flowers from Flowers for Dreams. It says: “Do you condemn racism, Nazism, and white nationalism?”

If yes – then customers may proceed. If no – then people are automatically redirected to the U.S. Holocaust Museum website.

The owner of the business, Steven Dyme, probably feels like he’s fairly safe in doing this for a number of reasons. First of all, he’s the grandchild of holocaust survivors, immediately making him a sympathetic figure. Second, he’s not targeting a politically popular and approved group. Who on Earth is going to come out in support of people who refuse to condemn Nazis?

But it’s not as simple as that, is it? While it should already be obvious, the parallels to the gay wedding florist cases are too clear to ignore. This is a retailer serving the public who is clearly (and by his own admission) denying service to consumers based on nothing more than their belief in a particular issue. We’ve already seen how courts at various levels have treated the question when services were refused to gay couples planning their weddings.

In those cases, there is at least the religious freedom angle to go on. If the vendor feels that an action would be in conflict with their deeply held religious beliefs then a court can find a path to support their choice. But there’s no religious freedom angle here, really. The only case to be made would be built on free speech, but now you’ve opened up an entirely new can of worms. If a vendor can refuse service to anyone based on their particular beliefs (no matter how abhorrent those beliefs may be) then all bets are off. Bars could start asking people if they condemn abortion services and either accept or reject their orders based on the answer given. It’s a very Libertarian concept in a way, since private sector businesses really should be able to choose who they serve and let the public decide with their wallets whether the business thrives or fails. But the fact is, that’s not how it works in the courts of the real world.

So will Dyme be taken to task for this action? I’m fairly sure you’d need to find someone to challenge him on it and claim that they were injured by the denial of service. And that means you need to find a plaintiff willing to go on record has having answered “no” to the question on the website. Could be a tall order.

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