A Better Apology From Gelato Mio Owner

A Better Apology From Gelato Mio Owner November 22, 2011

Jen posts a much longer apology from the owner of Gelato Mio, in which he explains what “event” led him to put up the sign and offers a much stronger apology than the first one. Here’s the full text:

To the World:

Hello, my name is Andy and I’m the owner of Gelato Mio, a gelato shop located in Springfield, Missouri. There has been quite a lot of buzz and discussion concerning a picture of the sign I briefly posted in my front window Saturday evening. I’d like to take this opportunity to tell my story and offer a heartfelt apology to your community. I messed up, plain and simple. This is NOT an excuse, but how it happened from my perspective.

I decided to welcome the convention downtown by offering the attendees 10% off their purchases at my store. A lot of the group from the convention were stopping by, being very polite and enjoying my Gelato. Saturday night started out as a great night. Once the store slowed down, I decided to walk down the street to learn more about the convention, fully thinking it was something involving UFOs (“skeptics”). What I saw instead was a man conducting a mock sermon, reading the bible and cursing it. Instead of saying “Amen”, the phrase was “god damn”. Being a Christian, and expecting flying saucers, I was not only totally surprised but totally offended. I took it very personally and quickly decided in the heat of the moment that I had to take matters into my own hands and let people know how I felt at that moment in time.

So, I went quickly back to my business, grabbed the first piece of paper I could find, wrote the note and taped it in my front window. This was an impulsive response, which I fully acknowledge was completely wrong and unacceptable. The sign was posted for about 10 minutes or so before I calmed down, came to my senses, and took it down. For what it’s worth, nobody was turned away. I strongly believe that everybody is entitled to their beliefs. I’m not apologizing for my beliefs, but rather for my inexcusable actions. I was wrong.

Guys, I really don’t know what else I can do to express my apologies. I’ve received dozens of calls and hundreds of emails since the incident, and have done my best to reply to each and every one and express my regret for what happened. For the thousands of you whom I’ve offended, I sincerely apologize. I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. This is me as a human being sincerely apologizing for my actions.

To those of you who accept my apology, Thank You; it means a lot. To those of you who haven’t, I hope you will. I’m just a 28 year old small business owner who made a big mistake. I hope you see that I have not made any excuses, I’ve owned up to what I did, and I apologize.

For what it’s worth, an Atheist reached out to me to help me work through all of this and contact your community directly. I graciously accepted his offer.

I will give everyone who comes to my store this week 10% off as a token of my apology. Really, what’s more universal than ice cream?

Sincerely, Andy

One of the reasons why I didn’t buy the first apology was the cryptic reference to some “event” where someone did something terrible to make him angry. Now he has at least spelled out what it was. I can certainly understand a Christian being shocked by Brother Sam’s act, though I still don’t understand the bizarre reaction to it. Is this apology sincere? I have no way of knowing. It could be sincere and it could be that he’s just trying to extricate himself from a bad situation; I can’t read his mind and neither can you.

But here’s one possible argument in favor of sincerity: What does he really have to gain from the apology? Skepticon only happens once a year and involves a few hundred people, only a small percentage of whom are going to go to his place anyway. On the other hand, he exists in a city that is overwhelmingly conservative and Christian and likely not to be bothered in the least by his shutting out of atheists — and quite possibly would reward that with more business rather than less. That seems an argument in his favor, but it’s not exactly dispositive, as the lawyers like to say.

Still, I think this should be the end of it. I see nothing to be gained by continuing to beat the drum. Here’s what we should be happy about, that even if the apology is totally insincere, he was forced into it by the overwhelming criticism. The swift and furious reaction, particularly through social media, will make other businesses think twice before doing the same thing, whether they do so out of principle or out of self-preservation. We should be happy that the pragmatic analysis is now, to at least some degree, on the side of not discriminating.


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  • I’ve never been able to decide if it’s a Bad Thing or not to ridicule the Bible in the manner that apparently upset the gelatinous Andy. It seems somehow a bit too unsportsmanly–too shooting-fish-in-a-barrel-y.

    (Though I admit I have done it myself on occasion).

  • eric

    I agree. Another pragmatic reason to let it go is because you want to provide incentive for the next person who does something like this to change their mind. The “never forgive” approach provides an object lesson to other Christians that they should not bother to improve how they treat atheists, since atheists won’t reciprocate if there was any past bad treatment at all.

    There’s an old story about two soldiers (pre-radios. 🙂 eating lunch a mile out of the town where they are stationed. The bell sounds, calling them back to duty, and they realize they’re going to be very late. “What’s the penalty for being late back from lunch?” asks one. “Death” replies the other. “And what’s the penalty for desertion and treason?” asks the first. “Death” says the second. “Well,” finishes the first, “I guess we’re deserters.” The moral of the story being, if your punishment for minor offenses is the same as your punishment for major ones, you will turn minor offenders into major offenders.

  • Jim

    I’m even more annoyed at this guy than I was before I knew the specifics. I had thought that an atheist had come into his store and done something. Not at all: the christian went near the convention and saw an atheist engaged in his lawful freedom of speech. Being offended he then went back and threw a tantrum.

    Bachman, Perry, Ratzinger, and now some gelato douchebag. My contempt for christians used to linear. Somewhere around y = 10x, where y is my level of contempt and x is another act of christian intollerance. The function has changed to an exponential one with y = 10 to the x, where y is contempt, x is another act of christian intollerance, and x is greater than zero.

    Gone is my linear relationship with christians; the gelato christian has ushered in exponential contempt.

  • The guy sounds sincere to me. Notpologies have telling characteristics: boilerplate formalism, overuse of the passive voice, dismissiveness, etc. I don’t see any of that here. If he’s faking it, he’s doing it extremely well, and the outcome is the same in any case. Cut the guy some slack.

  • Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    What does he really have to gain from the apology?

    The store owner publicizes an atheist compellingly playing-out a false stereotypical attribute; that, “atheists hate God”. In addition the owner demonstrates how American Christians are all too human but in the end demonstrate tolerance and openness. The owner’s tribe will use this story by promoting this anecdote as “proof” that atheists hate God.

    Assuming the story is true and accurately framed (a weakly-held assumption), I find it entirely reasonable why this gelato store owner got angry and wanted to react in way that defended his tribe from a rhetorical attack by a competing tribe. Reasonable? Probably not, but understandable? Absolutely.

    Again assuming the story is true and accurately framed, the guy who got the owner riled up appears to be behaving like a classless asshole whose so selfish and unaware he harms the very cause he claims to promote. It reminds me of people who opposed Sarah Palin who used sexist epithets in their condemnation or her.

  • While I was waiting for the internetztoobz demons to stop saying, “Cannot display…”, I decided to trim the edge of an arch form that put in one of the openings in my house. More demons, those in my Bosch jigsaw made it hurt me. While I was cursing and looking for bandaids I got to thinking. What would make me accept the gelatinous apologist–why, that pissed-off OT YWHW standy, the blood sacrifice.

    So, if Andy would simply bring his firstborn son to an appropriate venue and execute him as an offering to the atheoGOD, then everything would be hunky-do.. What, what’s that, we don’t got no GOD? Ah, fuck, that’s right. Okay, I’m going to go meditate with my Ramset now.

  • dochopper

    I bet the less than polite “WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING ? “Phone call from the Convention and Visitors Bureau did a lot to change his Outward attitude.

    Its not like the convention had to compete with others for Hotel suites and Meeting room space that weekend.

  • Margaret

    What’s this big thing about having to forgive him? Getting “forgiven” so that they can go the same things again and again with a clear conscience is a christian thing. It’s good that he took the sign down, and even better that we now have laws that would force him to take the sign down if he hadn’t done it on his own, but I don’t care about his apology. Sign or no sign, apology or no apology, he’s a bigot, and his bigotry deserves to be pointed out as much as possible. It’s unlikely to have much effect on the other bigots, but it is important for the so-called “moderate” christians who claim that christianity is all sweetness and light and that this kind of discrimination doesn’t happen.

  • MyPetSlug

    I think withholding acceptance of the apology based on if it was sincere or not is the wrong way to go. Whether is was sincere or not, it was definitely not a notpology. He states unequivocally that he was wrong and he apologizes to those he offended. So, in that sense it was a real actual apology. Everybody makes mistakes.

    The standard notpology is to admit no error, usually claiming it was a joke or you were merely just expressing your opinion. Then, to apologize *if* you offended anyone, not allowing that your words/actions actually did offend anyone or even admitting how someone could have been offended by it. The final part of the notpology is to shift the blame and try to pin something on the people who are complaining about your words/actions. Like, “What has political correctness come to in this country? It’s destroying our society.” or maybe “Why are people so eager to be offended?”. And of course, the wingnut version of the notpology involves misunderstanding the first amendment, accusing others of trying to violate their first amendment rights. Anyway, none of those things were present here.

  • sqlrob

    He has internet publicity to gain, with the hope of people removing the negative yelp reviews.

  • raymoscow

    I think it’s fair enough: he’s not against black people in general, just a few uppity ones.

  • Michael Heath said:

    Again assuming the story is true and accurately framed, the guy who got the owner riled up appears to be behaving like a classless asshole whose so selfish and unaware he harms the very cause he claims to promote. It reminds me of people who opposed Sarah Palin who used sexist epithets in their condemnation or her.

    That would be Sam Singleton, a comedian and one of the speakers. Apparently Andy the gelato store owner wandered in during his time on stage.

    I missed Singleton’s act last year so can’t say whether it’s funny, but Ed seemed to think so. Funny or not, its inclusion (and the fact that it was this, in particular, which so offended Andy) highlights the fact that Skepticon is more of a party for atheists than a conference for skeptics. Andy’s assumption that the event would be about UFOs and instead finding himself witnessing mockery of religion is strangely apt. Those of us accepting this apology can probably understand his confusion; those of us who are deriding his failure to include ridicule of faith in the category of “skepticism” seem to be the ones who aren’t.

    Note: I am not saying there’s anything wrong with parties for atheists. I’m an atheist, and I like a good party. I also enjoy me some amusing ridicule of religion. I just think that “skepticism” is the wrong word for it. Andy still might have been offended if he had instead walked into a talk by Amanda Marcotte about the role of irrationality in sexism (which she gave last year, and it was really good) which includes talk of religious irrationality. But he probably wouldn’t have been mystified and upset by its inclusion in a conference on skepticism.

    I made a blog post along these lines after attending Skepticon last year, if you’re interested. That post was interpreted as an attack on the entire enterprise and this one might as well, but it’s not intended to be. Just to point out a distinction that is exemplified in this little gelato controversy.

  • lofgren

    I will go ahead and give the guy the benefit of the doubt and assume that the apology is sincere, and that he has learned that sometimes your first impulse is not always the best one, and that having your beliefs mocked may be a challenge and it may be painful but ultimately you will survive and we are better off living in a world where people challenge your presuppositions than one where everybody believes the same thing unquestioningly. If skepticon can put the glimmer of these core skeptical values into the mind of a believer, it will have been more successful than it ever needed to be.

  • fastlane

    I still think ‘not forgiving’ is the right stance, but I’m not going to condemn anyone for disagreeing. Oddly, I’ve seen a lot of the opposite from those who think we should just accept his apology.

    I stand by my earlier comments. If he really wants his apology to mean anything, he’s going to have to keep this incident in mind the next time the conference is in town. If he put a sign up offering a discount to Scepticon attendees, or at least ‘S5 attendees welcome’ or better ‘Atheists and Skeptics welcome’, then it would indicate that he might have actually learned something, even if it was mostly financially driven.

    The most important part of doing something like that publicly is that it would show the local xians, who probably supported his action, that bigotry of that kind is wrong, and should not be tolerated.

  • Michael Heath


    First off thanks for bringing some much needed context and I’ll be sure to read your linked post.

    You wrote:

    Andy’s assumption that the event would be about UFOs and instead finding himself witnessing mockery of religion is strangely apt.

    I interpreted the Gelato guy witnessing an atheist cursing others, i.e., “God damn” rather than “Amen”, not merely mocking them. To me that’s a difference where we should expect even reasonable, fair-minded people to react, not that you argued otherwise. I just think it’s an enormous difference where my previous post was written within the context of witnessing someone cursing others, not merely mocking them.

  • imthegenieicandoanything

    It rings true enough, and Ed’s other points are well-observed, too.

    This guy is simply a Christian who has never encountered any living, breathing non-Christian. He’s your typically brainwashed human being, but just as human as you or me. Not damaged or actively horrid, like your ‘Mer’kin Xian is.

    He has one hell of a lot to learn, apology, explanation, or not, though.

    WAKE UP, ANDY! ALL THAT “GOD” STUFF IS AN OBVIOUS AND BALD=FACED LIE. However “good for business” and fraternizing with your believin’ neighbors it is.

  • I think all the talk of whether he should be forgiven or not is kind of pointless. It’s not like any of actually know the guy and for anyone he doesn’t know to say “I forgive him” is pretty much meaningless. I don’t really care all that much how sincere the apology was because I can’t really know one way or the other. I also don’t really care if he likes atheists or not, or whether he was offended by what he saw or not. He has every right to be offended if he wishes; he just can’t discriminate because of it. I just think it’s not really worth doing anything further on it. He did something stupid, he got hammered for it and he completely backed down. Problem solved.

  • kurtbasham

    Anybody see PZ’s response in today’s Pharyngula? He absolutely went on a tear and destroyed this guy. Much discussion followed in the comments about whether the guy deserved the Pee Zed-style shredding.

  • tfkreference

    I think that Ed makes an excellent point about other business owners thinking twice about discriminating. It’s a larger scale version of fence-sitting lurkers watching a creationist (my favorite type of troll) get smacked down, and realizing that what initially seems harsh pales in comparison to the troll’s irrationality.

  • As is often the case, Hemant is the good cop, PZ is the bad cop and I’m somewhere in the middle. I just don’t really think it matters whether the guy is sincere or not. Those who are convinced he is being absolutely sincere and those who think he is acting solely out of economic self-interest are both reaching conclusions on very little evidence. I see little reason to worry about which of those options is true. The important thing is that there was a swift and furious backlash and he backed down, regardless of why he did it. If he did it because he genuinely realized he was wrong, that’s great; and if he did it because the pragmatic calculations no longer favor such discrimination, that’s great too. In contrast to Hemant, I’m not going to go out of my way to buy some gelato from him next year in the hope that it will make him like us; I doubt that would really do any good at all. And in contrast to PZ, I’m not going to bother expressing any more anger about it either. I see little to be gained by either of those paths of action.

  • den1s

    I actually agree with Gretchen about the ‘skepticon’ name implying skepticism in general but ends up being ‘religicon’, so no controversy from me there.

  • abb3w

    I suspect he’ll serve society more as someone who learned from a mistake than as a hideous warning to others thinking about making one.

  • kuralssssp

    I dont care if his apology is sincere or not, because I have no way of knowing. I learned about the L’affaire Gelato on Sunday, and having had our fill of dessert the night before at the Aviary (best crepes this side of Montreal) my wife and I weren’t particularly looking for some tiramisu. But both of us agreed that otherwise it would have been worth checking this place out, identifying ourselves and engaging Andy in civil and cordial discussion. But we didn’t as we were running late on Sunday. I am distressed and even angry about the free pass religious wingnuts get in this country. I am pissed off that humanists/atheists/skeptics who stand on a higher moral plane than all religious nuts in this country are ignored, mocked and shunned. But I would rather work with Andy and regardless of his religion, get him to deal decently with the other side, rather than see the truly bigoted right extremists demagogue their way to power. Because I think I can get Andy to be civil even if he is religious. Because my standard and ideal of a religious Xtian in America is not a Bachman or Robertson. It is a Wes Elsberry or Miller. Though Wes and Ken dont run ice cream stores, I am sure they wouldn’t have behaved like Andy. Even if Andy is bigoted, he is a small businessman, and I dont want him to lose custom and operate a quiet and empty store during a busy tourist filled weekend. I will find a way of putting my point across to Andy, but not by seeing his family go hungry. Because dear humanists, while a religious wingnut maybe happy, even delighted, to see you in distress and defeated, you as a humanist cant bear to see another person suffer or bring yourself to make another person unhappy.

  • zmidponk

    Whilst I give this guy some credit for at least backing down and realising an apology was due, I find the initial knee-jerk, instinctive reaction he had was very telling. Instead of addressing and responding to the guy making fun of some of the bizarre things found in his chosen Holy Book, what did he do? He retreated back into his shop and took steps to try to sort of wall off an area where the questioning and skepticism he witnessed is not allowed.

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