Country Club Forced to Pay ‘Undisclosed Sum’ to Center For Inquiry After Breaking Contract for Richard Dawkins Event

Back in October of 2011, Richard Dawkins was scheduled to make an appearance at the Wyndgate Country Club in Rochester Hills, Michigan to promote his new-at-the-time book The Magic of Reality.

But after the paperwork was signed, the owner of the club saw Dawkins’ appearance on The O’Reilly Factor:

Apparently, Bill O’Reilly‘s crazy comments raised no red flags for the owner, but Dawkins’ comments put him over the edge. He canceled the contract with the Center For Inquiry – Michigan because he “did not wish to associate with individuals such as Dawkins, or his philosophies.”

Because we all know spreading science and logic are crimes against humanity.

In April of 2012, CFI filed a lawsuit against the country club.

Yesterday, it was announced that CFI won a settlement offer:

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.

“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.

For all we know, that “undisclosed sum” could be anywhere from a dollar to who-knows-how-much. But, no matter how you spin it, the country club wasn’t able to get away with the open showing of discrimination.

So far, neither the Wyndgate Country Club nor its owners have issued any public statements on the matter.

This is great news for everybody involved. If Richard Dawkins weren’t an atheist, but rather Mormon or Jewish or Republican, there would undoubtedly be a national outcry. But the result will help protect atheists against any future acts of discrimination against them.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Matt

    The video is not available. What was Dawkin’s offending comment?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I believe it was something like, “I’m an atheist”

      • Tim

        How dare he.

      • Sven2547

        Won’t somebody think of the children?!

      • coyotenose

        Are you sure it wasn’t “Kittens are cute”?

        • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

          hahahaha! Thank you. :D

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      And I think perhaps the general idea that Dawkins wrote a book for children that presented Noah’s ark on equal footing with, you know, fairy tales.

      • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

        Hmmm. I did a YouTube video a year or two ago on Noah’s Ark for Kids and you would be amazed at the belligerence and threats I got from parents!

        http://youtu.be/Q_HwfyMs_OU

  • Hailey

    Nice work, CFI. Thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

    This should be the same clip:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bww9LV2f0Tw

    • Claude

      Thank you for the link.

      So O’Reilly’s main reason for embracing Christianity is authoritarian. Shocker.

      • Claude

        Not to mention the requisite association of atheism with Lenin, Mao and Pol Pot. Yeah, Fox watchers, it’s all bad!

  • The Other Weirdo

    So, why would Richard Dawking want to make an appearance at a club that had already been sued over his appearance? The place gets sued in April, half a year before his scheduled appearance?

    • RTH

      The lawsuit was filed half a year AFTER his scheduled appearance.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Hemant originally had ‘April 2011′ for the lawsuit, but then fixed it.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

        Typo on my part. Sorry! Lawsuit occurred in April 2012.

  • The Fog Horn

    Unfortunately the Richard Dawkins Foundation is not a place for open and inquisitive dialogue. See what happened to me when I attempted to put a new idea to them…

    http://ohmyvolcano.blogspot.com/2012/10/banned-from-richard-dawkins.html

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      You don’t have a legal contract with RDFS to host your speech, and yet you were banned every time you tried to talk about your own pet Vulcan theory of creation.

      Shocking!

    • C Peterson

      Well… looking at your original letter, what I see is a load of misspellings, some questionable geologic assumptions, no arguments supporting your hypothesis and a load of bible verses. Frankly, it meets all the requirements for the offering of a pseudoscientific crackpot. Rational and science oriented sites have to be constantly vigilant for such, or it rapidly takes over.

      I’m not saying that your idea lacks merit, but it needs to be developed in much greater detail, and supported by established geological and historical references. Only then would it be ready for publication- and a blog would not be the best forum for that.

      • The Fog Horn

        This was not a submission for an academic journal! I sent several submissions for forum topics. My topic was challenging whereas all the topics that did get through were not debatable at all. They were boring and simple. All I wanted was to open up the debate to get people talking about it. Of course, that was not going to happen because atheists favourate feel good mantra is, ‘The Bible is fiction!’. This theory takes that away from you all. What would you all blurt out many times a day? You’d have to reassess your beliefs, your approach….my god….you’d have to change!!!

        • C Peterson

          I’ve never encountered an atheist who believed that the entire bible is fictional. Anybody who has even the barest familiarity with it recognizes that it contains historical elements. Speaking as a professional astronomer with a focus on meteoritics, I can tell you that respected astronomers, geologists, and archaeoastronomers have referenced sections of the bible as potential literary fossils of geological or astronomical events.

          Effective discussion forums with a focused subject are generally not open to all conversation or all ideas. It is perfectly reasonable to establish posting rules that require discussions (particularly scientific discussions) stick fairly close to the mainstream or consensus view. Doing otherwise can result in things spinning out of control into crackpot territory. There are plenty of other forums for those wishing to discuss wild ideas.

          As I noted, your initial submission had all the hallmarks of a crackpot posting. It certainly sent my BS detector ringing. You should consider that the response you received had more to do with your presentation than with the root idea you were proposing, or any fundamental lack of openness to new ideas. Your characterization of atheists as people not open to critical evaluation of the bible is so absurd that this idea alone is likely to get you onto filter lists.

          • The Fog Horn

            What are you doing on an atheist forum? Mocking. That’s what you’re doing and that is what all other atheists in cyberspace I have come across do do. You’re not remotely interested in investigating the possible origins of the religions. All you care about is the fact you are an atheist and not one of the foolish theists. You don’t do anything to help theists leave their faith by trying to debunk their religions. You just love to bask in the limelight of atheism. Yes, you’ve made it….you are one of the lucky ones. You got out. Well, if you were a decent person you would not stop at that. We do not live in a free society unless every last slave is liberated.

            I’ve spent three long years doing what a novice can do after it dawned on me that god was a volcano. Three years ago, it struck me like a bolt of lightening. It was that damn bloody obvious. Who the hell could deny it? Well, a lot it seems because this thing is riddled with ego….yours included.

            You keep spending your time mocking Christians and doing little else to bring this whole sorry episode in human history to an end other than ripping apart anyone who does what you cannot be bothered to do…..think….and who does what you are not inclined to do…..put the effort in to save the last poor slaves to religion.

            • keynescoase

              “I’ve spent three long years doing what a novice can do after it dawned on me that god was a volcano”

              Please just read this and come back to us when you’re not crazy. Thanks.

            • C Peterson

              You have absolutely no idea what my interests are in terms of the origin of religions. I’ve been discussing methods of detecting crackpot posts, and why you’re might be seen that way. I’ve said nothing at all about my other interests. The fact that you are so quick to invent motives for me, in the total absence of any evidence at all, further supports my belief that the problems you experienced on Dawkins’s forum (and are now experiencing here, as well) are related to your presentation, and not merely the content of your proposal.

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            Eh, I’d argue that the Bible falls under “historical fiction”, in that it does use real places, and might even refer to a few real people, but the stories themselves are pure, unadulterated fantasy.

            You know, kinda like Harry Potter references real life places (London, King’s Cross Station), but the stories are all made up.

            • The Fog Horn

              Google ‘Oh My Volcano Leviathan’ then tell me if the Leviathan was a myth or an athropomorphised submarine volcano. That is one example of what can be deciphered from the Bible if you open your eyes and you empathise with the ancient people….stepping into their shoes, picturing the scene and imaging what went on inside their heads. Please let everyone know what you think to the theory, which I believe I am the only person to have presented.

              • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                Wasn’t talking to you, plz go way now.

              • Claude

                How do you know you’re the only one to have this idea? Have you ever run your theory against Old Testament scholarship? The Richard Dawkins Foundation is a strange choice for a submission on Yahweh. I urge you to take down your webpage complaint. Believe me, it does your cause no good.

    • Gus Snarp

      I could follow your link and see what case you have, then savage you when it turns out you’re just a crank, or I can just rest on my assumption about you and call it a day, since it just doesn’t matter and if I turn out to be right, I don’t want to have given you the hits on your blog.

      • The Fog Horn

        You’ve made your mind up and don’t want to be bothered with the facts huh?

        What a free thinker you are…not!

        Atheists are totally out of their minds thinking the Bible is fiction. What kind of novel is that? All holy books have grains of truth in them. It just takes discernment to work out the facts from the fiction.

        Take the Leviathan for example. You probably all think it was a fire breathing dragon. Yep….that makes sense doesn’t it? Either there were lots of fire breathing dragons in the River Jordan back then or the ancients totally made it up for good bedtime reading with the little ones. Right. Clever.

        No, the Leviathan was a submarine volcano or vent, which must be prevelant in the River Jordan, the Red Sea, the Dead Sea, etc, as they all lie along a tectonic rift where two continents are pulling apart. You did know about that rift didn’t you? Spooky things happen along rift zones. We understand all those spooky happenings but the ancients didn’t. They were like puppy dogs going on their first walk every time.

        Mount Sinai was a volcano in NW Saudi, the burning bush was caused by a flaming gas leak on the slopes of Mt Sinai, the ten plagues of Egypt were caused by the Santorini eruption, the brimstone of fire and brimstone was volcanic sulfur, the lake of fire was the lava filled volcano crater.

        Nahum 1:5-6 The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.

        You’d have to be a total blockhead to not be able to see it.

        Atheists….you got it wrong. You need to stop congratulating yourselves on your atheism and start thinking more. You stopped thinking when you stopped believing when that should have been your cue to think.

        • keynescoase

          So I check it out, and it’s like 70% bible verse. You can’t use a book to justify your arguments when your arguments are the book. That logic won’t fly.

          • The Fog Horn

            You checked out what? You’ve not checked out my theory. My theory is covered in over 160 posts and not one person has clicked on more than one page in the last hour. You scanned the homepage and made an assumption. Come back after I’ve seen someone click on every page and then tell me it’s not credible.
            What’s your theory for it? That nothing in the natural world inspired the religion? That the Hebrews always worshipped an all-powerful all present god? All other ancient people were worshipping one thing or another but that fact doesn’t influence your judgement at all? Volcano worship was the most influencial superstition in the seismically active holy land yet volcano worship is unlikely to have been the catalyst for one small clan of nomads wandering around the desert of Midian, which was NW Saudi were there are lots of volcanoes and harrats?
            You’ve got to be kidding.
            Most atheists are lazy. They are happy to be atheist and they’re not interested in debunking the religions. As long as they can spend hours each day mocking the theists then that’s enough for them.

            • keynescoase

              You do realize the burden of proof is on your end. We don’t have to prove anything. You have to prove that yours is correct. Which, it isn’t, so why bother. You can’t use the bible to justify your arguments which are the bible. Your circular logic does not work. What makes yours any more valid than the thousands of other gods and religions? Good luck with that.

            • C Peterson

              Again, my BS filters are ringing. Complaining in one forum about your perceived treatment in another. Seeming to expect others to prove you wrong. Making assertions without evidence. Name calling. Paranoia.

              Lookup “crackpot index” and plug in the numbers. I don’t think your score is looking very good.

              • keynescoase

                I love this comment. Utter and complete burn. Props.

              • The Fog Horn

                I’ve had three years of putting up with theists screaming at me from one side and atheists screaming at me from the other and quite frankly I COULD do with a trip to the shrink because I am bloody rattled by it. I feel like I’ve been in the middle of a Medieval court for the last three years with every bugger taking great delight in chucking rotten veg at me. It’s only because I’m so damn sure of this theory that I’ve managed to keep going. I’m just trying to do my best to get my point across. I’m not a scholar. I am not an expert. I do, however, believe I am on to something. My presentation is crap but I am not getting a bit of help or enthusiasm from anyone and haven’t had in three years. You try to be perfect in the face of so much outright hostility and mockery. Why don’t you stop focusing on the front page and take a look through the book? You know the saying…

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              Most atheists are lazy.

              Or just evaluate where to spend our time. In the last couple of days I’ve had people insist that people with Rh- blood type have better telekinetic powers (and an extra vertebrae), contrails are the result of changing our atmosphere so some alien race I’ve forgotten the name of can breath it, Newtown is a government conspiracy to take away our guns, and that Pigeons are proof of creation. And I’ve forgotten what else. And if I don’t go read their endless papers and watch their youtube videos, I’m lazy, close minded, a sheeple.

              Ain’t got no time for that.

            • allein

              You’re right, I am happy to be atheist and I am not especially interested in debunking other people’s religions. I have a decent lay-person’s level of education about various religions, but I’m not any kind of religious scholar and I don’t want to be (certainly not to the level I would need to effectively debunk anything). Nor do I particularly like to argue with people. I’d be content if people would keep their religion to themselves. I don’t particularly care what most people believe if they aren’t hurting anyone. I’d love to see people come to the conclusion that their religions are false but I’d be happy enough with getting them to realize that they don’t have the right to foist their beliefs on others.

        • keynescoase

          You’re also associating what you might have learned to be true with what you hope to be true. Connecting the volcano, for example, with that book, is speculation at best. Correlation does not mean causation. We do not blindly believe in a book just because we’re told it’s true. Think for yourself, and develop some rational thinking qualities.

          For a forum topic, you’re quite verbose. Just say, what about this, with one or two facts to support your argument. Not bible anything = not facts.

          • g

            I don’t mean to encourage this sort of thing, but to be fair, Fog Horn isn’t saying they believe the bible…. You should probably not assume right off the bat.

            • keynescoase

              If you would look at the post (don’t give this person the hits) it’s chock-full of bible verses proving the point. This person believes it to be law and truth, rather than a fiction written by man over the years.

              • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                Pretty sure the book of “Nahum” is from the Mormon bible-fic written by Joe Smith.

                • allein

                  It’s not, actually. It’s in the old testament (had to look it up, though, since I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it).

                  “The book of Nahum is the seventh book of the 12 minor prophets of the Hebrew Bible. It is attributed to the prophet Nahum, and was probably written in Jerusalem in the 7th century BC.” (wikipedia).
                  Starts on page 828 of my Revised Standard Version.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Ah, okay. *shrugs*

                • The Fog Horn

                  http://ohmyvolcano.blogspot.com/2011/11/biblical-metaphors.html

                  Bibilical metaphors. Once you spot one you can spot ‘em all. Join me in my god busting quest. It’s more fun than hanging about mocking Christians!

              • The Fog Horn

                Black and white thinking has not resulted in the truth being revealed has it? Discernment is needed. Maybe it’s a skill for a woman.

            • The Fog Horn

              Oh my volcano! Someone with a bit of flexibility. Too much black and white thinking around here. Is it too beond your comprehensions that there is some truth in the Bible but that the people writing it didn’t understand the world enough to write it in a way we would ordinarily be able to decipher? If I saw a volcanic eruption and wrote about it, you would all know what I was writing about. If I was an ancient desert nomad who had never seen a volcano before, didn’t know the fire and brimstone came out of the volcano (thought it was produced by the magician who lived inside the top of it), didn’t know it was a normal naturally occuring event and didn’t even have a word for ‘volcano’ then you probably wouldn’t have much of a clue of what I was talking about……especially if you had been familiar with my writings from an early age and had been conditioned into thinking I was talking about something entirely different. I would write about a man or a magician or maybe a Lord taking up residence inside his mountain of fire and orchestrating the goings on…his fiery wrath, his rivers of fire, his fire and brimstone, the smoke coming out of his nostrils…
              It can all be decoded quite easily.
              Google ‘Oh My Volcano’ with an open mind.

  • Gus Snarp

    I wonder if a court verdict would have been a better outcome by setting precedent. But at least CFI is able to publicly say there was a settlement that involved a payment by the country club. That alone is good press and a deterrent to this kind of discriminatory behavior in the future.

  • Gus Snarp

    Bill O’Reilly in that clip makes me want to vomit. I sometimes wonder if he’s a true believer or just selling a persona to his audience. In that clip he comes out to me as fundamentally dishonest with his “Aha!” when Dawkins mentions using a myth to open each chapter and his patronizing tone in spite of demonstrating either dishonesty or colossal ignorance throughout.

    I hate everything about Bill O’Reilly as a media persona. He represents the worst of American media. He’s found a target audience and gives them exactly what they want to hear, feeding and validating their every prejudice and never challenging them with new ideas.

    • coyotenose

      Some people here probably remember “Ed Anger” from the Weekly World News in the ’80s. Ed was a fictitious columnist in that tabloid, who would go on unhinged rants about stupid things from an ultraconservative position. Now here are the relevant elements.

      1. Bill O’Reilly and his peers are exactly like Ed Anger.

      2. Ed Anger was intended as a JOKE. The column rather gently satirized conservative positions by taking them to extremes. Now the ideas in it are considered mainstream.

      O’Reilly and Company have people believing that intentionally overblown satire is valid opinion. They are acting like a character who was so crazy that he had to be made up, and people think they have credibility.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Country Club Forced to Pay…
    Yesterday, it was announced that CFI came out on top:

    This is misleading reportage. If there was a settlement, it means that the CC was not “forced” to pay, and the CFI didn’t “come out on top.” Rather, both sides agreed to the settlement before a verdict was deliberated.

    • AaronLane

      This is what I was thinking too. Wouldn’t it have been more of a “win” if it had gone to adjudication and come out as case law that nonbelievers are within the protected class for public accommodation? Or am I missing something?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      My apologies. I’ve edited the post to reflect something more accurate.

  • Raul Capeda

    Actually your creative writing skills has inspired me to start my personal BlogEngine weblog now.


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