Country Club Owner Did Not “Wish to Associate” with Atheists
A national secular advocacy group is bringing legal action against a Michigan country club for religious discrimination and breach of contract after it cancelled an event because of the attendees’ lack of religious beliefs.
The Center for Inquiry (CFI), a national organization advocating on behalf of science and secular values, is suing the Wyndgate Country Club in Rochester Hills, Mich., and its owner, for violation of the Civil Rights Act and for breaking its contract with CFI’s Michigan branch. The Wyndgate, denying use of its public accommodations entirely on the basis of religion, cancelled a scheduled CFI-Michigan event to be held October 12, 2011 that would have included an address from British scientist and noted atheist, Prof. Richard Dawkins.
In breaking its contract, the Wyndgate justified its actions by stating that “the owner does not wish to associate with certain individuals and philosophies,” referring to the “philosophies” of Prof. Dawkins and other nonbelievers. The cancellation notice specifically referenced Prof. Dawkins‘ October 5, 2011 appearance on The O’Reilly Factor, during which Prof. Dawkins’ atheism was central to the conversation.
“This was to be an opportunity for friends to gather, enjoy each other’s company, and hear from one of their favorite authors, an internationally renowned professor; but the Wyndgate opted to breach its contract simply because atheists would be taking part,” said Steven Fox, Legal Director for CFI. “If this kind of discrimination had been directed at any religious group there would rightfully be no end to the outrage. The fact that the victims are nonbelievers makes it just as wrong, just as unacceptable, and just as unconstitutional—and we will not let it stand.”
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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization based in Amherst, New York; it is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI‘s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.