Atheist Group Settles Landmark Discrimination Case with Michigan Country Club

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A Michigan country club that cancelled an event by the Center for Inquiry (CFI), allegedly because of the speaker’s and attendees’ atheism, has agreed to a settlement in the case brought against it, marking perhaps the first time federal and state civil rights statutes have been successfully invoked by nonbelievers in a public accommodations lawsuit.

In April of last year, the Center for Inquiry, an organization advocating for science, reason, and secular values, brought suit against the Wyndgate Country Club of Rochester Hills, Michigan for violation of both the federal and state civil rights laws, as well as breach of contract, after it cancelled an October, 2011 CFI-Michigan event featuring famous atheist Richard Dawkins. The club tried to justify breaking its contract by stating that “the owner does not wish to associate with certain individuals and philosophies.” The club’s representative specifically cited a concern over Dawkins’ appearance on The O’Reilly Factor a few days before, in which Dawkins’ atheism was the chief topic.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome of this case, which we regard as an unqualified vindication of the rights of nonbelievers,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “We are confident it will send a strong message that as much as this country now rejects discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, and religion, so must we reject just as strongly discrimination against those with no religion.”

As part of this settlement, the Wyndgate has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to the Center for Inquiry.

Written By: Paul Fidalgo
continue to source article at centerforinquiry.net

12 COMMENTS

  1. Eduardo- I live in Michigan as well and I have to say I’m happier about the win than I am sad over the defeat. The loss in Warren over the Xmas display might be in part caused by the way they went at it. I’m all for suing to keep religious matters away from government buildings but I don’t think suing to put up a counter measure calling them, in effect, idiots (though they are) was the right way to go.

    The decision in favor of Richard was more important to me because it was about a proactive discrimination against atheists and our ability to assemble and be heard. There is a big difference between a Dawkins speech and the display of a slogan next to a creche- though both ought to be allowed. Just saying in today’s climate, if we could only win one, this was the one to win.

  2. Eduardo- I live in Michigan as well and I have to say I’m happier about the win than I am sad over the defeat. The loss in Warren over the Xmas display might be in part caused by the way they went at it. I’m all for suing to keep religious matters away from government buildings but I don’t think suing to put up a counter measure calling them, in effect, idiots (though they are) was the right way to go.

    The decision in favor of Richard was more important to me because it was about a proactive discrimination against atheists and our ability to assemble and be heard. There is a big difference between a Dawkins speech and the display of a slogan next to a creche- though both ought to be allowed. Just saying in today’s climate, if we could only win one, this was the one to win.

    I see your point and I agree.

  3. In reply to #5 by papa lazaru:

    All I can see is a breach of contract. In case of a private club, it’s their prerogative to decide if they would allow a particular group to host a meeting on their grounds.

    With the ease of searching on the internet, you would think that people would google Richard’s name before signing any documents. Imagine if a private club decided to exclude all blacks and hispanics.

  4. In reply to #3 by rjohn19:

    …atheists and our ability to assemble and be heard.

    Change that to “atheist cats and our ability to herd and be heard” :D


    Even tho this doesn’t set a legal precedent, word is out thanks to the owner who tried to pull a fast one. So in a way, maybe we should thank him. Now there is a solid case to build upon.

  5. In reply to #5 by papa lazaru:

    All I can see is a breach of contract. In case of a private club, it’s their prerogative to decide if they would allow a particular group to host a meeting on their grounds.

    I think that discrimination of this type might be allowed only for private institutions under a certain size. I could be wrong.

  6. I don’t like equating points of view, such as religion or atheism, to genetically determined characteristics, such as race or sexual orientation. There are occasions where it is legitimate to discriminate against people based on their point of view (though this wasn’t one of them).

  7. In reply to #5 by papa lazaru:

    All I can see is a breach of contract. In case of a private club, it’s their prerogative to decide if they would allow a particular group to host a meeting on their grounds.

    Except in this case, the club offers it’s facilities for rental and use by the general public. In U.S. law, even private facilities are barred from discriminating against certain protected classes when offering services for hire. It is the same principal which prohibits a lunch counter from refusing service to black customers or a swimming pool from excluding Jewish patrons.

  8. In reply to #13 by BanJoIvie:

    In U.S. law, even private facilities are barred from discriminating against certain protected classes when offering services for hire. It is the same principal which prohibits a lunch counter from refusing service to black customers

    Exactly!

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