An Update on GelatoGate November 23, 2011

An Update on GelatoGate

One more update from Andy, the owner of Gelato Mio:

Via our email exchanges, he’s told me he’s very grateful for the forgiveness he’s seen from many atheists. I told him not to let the ones holding grudges get to him.

Three of the people behind Skepticon (Organizers Kayley Olson and Micah Weiss are in the picture below) have also forgiven him and they left a message saying as much on Reddit (***Edit***: The post says that JT made threats against Andy. I’ve read JT’s posting on this subject and that’s absolutely not true):

We’d be real appreciative if anyone who put up negative reviews without ever having gone to Gelato Mio would take them down. I mean, Skepticon, as a conference, hearts local businesses. We want to support our community as much as possible and make them see how awesome atheists and skeptics can be. So, in general, that means not running local businesses into the ground. 😛

tldr: Andy is a pretty nice guy who made a mistake. Skepticon likes him. You should too.

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  • JimG

    Great news! I’m glad the majority response was to show Andy that atheists aren’t the ogres so many people fear. I wasn’t able to make Skepticon this year, to my regret, but if I manage it next year I’ll make a point of snacking at Gelato Mio.

  • Tyler

    1) I <3 you guys
    2) I <3 adding the '-gate' suffix to the end of words

  • Anonymous

    I still don’t understand why I should want to support a business owner who heard people reading the Bible in a theater, got offended, and put out a sign saying that only Christians are welcome in his store.

    Yes, “it was just a mistake, and I make mistakes too,” but I’ve never trampled over anyone’s rights while doing so.

    Seems like he was more sorry that he got caught than that he offended atheists or broke the law.

  • I get the sense that Andy didn’t realize he was stepping on anybody’s rights. He just thought he was expressing his opinion much in the same way Sam Singleton was expressing his onstage. Obviously, Andy was wrong. I don’t expect him to understand what atheists have to deal with on a regular basis just yet, but I think he did pick up on the idea that discriminating against a group of people, be they the attendees of Skepticon or anyone else, was not the right thing to do. He doesn’t have to agree with us, and I don’t know why people want to hold him to the same standards they would a politician. All I want from him is an expectation that he will separate his personal beliefs from his business life, at least at the counter. I have confidence that he now knows better how to do that.

  • Rod Chlebek

    I don’t expect miracles… just a little progress. This is satisfying.

  • I don’t know why people want to hold him to the same standards they would a politician

    I’m not sure what you mean by this Hemant. I have a sense I may disagree with the sentiment, but without knowing quite what you mean, I can’t be sure. Can you elaborate?

  • Just that he ought to act in the best interest of everyone and not be guided by his personal beliefs. He’s a private citizen and I’m not surprised he didn’t realize the sign was wrong. He needed to be educated about that. He was, albeit after the fact. I’m sure he won’t make that mistake again.

  • Apparently saying “I think this guy is full of it” is now equal to making threats of violence against them.



  • Robert

    I don’t get this effort to go out of your way for someone who very likely did not learn any lesson beyond “don’t piss off potential customers”.

    This is what I take home from this incident:

    1. It’s a real life example of religious privilege rearing its head.

    2. The shop owner is sensible enough to take down a stupid sign.

    What is there beyond that? Why the tremendous effort to paint this as a lesson learned when there is no evidence of that? As far as I can tell he still finds atheists insulting by their very existence but it willing to tolerate them as customers or simply doesn’t think about it much.

    How does that warrant such a response? I think PZ’s response was longer than need be but generally correct. There is no particular reason to accept a poor apology so please, stop making the effort to give back to this one person.

  • ed-words

           Totus est venia. Pax.

  • randall.morrison90

    His business is not a government operation.  Its a private enterprise. And  Sam Singleton expressess ridicule and insult…thats his business and his right.

    The business owner should not have had to apologize…its pathetic that the atheist community focused on this one small time guy.

    Nor is it a Civil Rights issue…unless of course you are saying that Atheism is a religion.

    If you ARE saying Atheism is a religion, then that changes the argument.

  • randall.morrison90

    Only problem with this is that the atheist who set this off…Sam Singleton…IS insulting.


    And to Provoke

    He got what you all wanted, you whining hypocrites.

  • randall.morrison90

    He didn’t break any law, you moron.  UNLESS you are saying Atheism is a relgion…then it might be covered under the Civil Rights act.

  • I left this on PZ’s blog on the dangers of being nice in every situation… 
    As an accused atheist in a child custody situation, sometimes I
    wonder if stereotyping is worsened by “strong atheists” like Brother
    Sam. But when you think about it, stereotyping is done by people too
    intellectually lazy or just plain prejudiced. Being nice has to be
    natural, appropriate response to a given situation. I am often
    described as “nice”, and if in a rare moment of frustration I let a cuss
    word slip some people are quick to highlight it as if I have some sort
    of swearing habit.

    I think of the atheist movement that way too. You can obsess on
    being nice walk on pins and needles hoping to be palatable and thus
    accepted by everyone or you can realize that a few people will never
    make an effort to get to know you. Its like the circus trick trying to
    keep plates spinning perfectly balanced. You could keep them spinning
    beautifully and perfectly for days. The minute one inevitably falls,
    that’s what is remembered. Why should we be magnanimous until it hurts
    to those very few people who we never were going to impress, and
    actively want to see us fail in order to bolster their worldview and
    protect their privileges?

    I would forgive him if he made an honest effort to learn more about atheists rather than stereotype. (He did say that no atheist not just Brother Sam was welcome in his business) My post was more toward atheists who think it is Brother Sam’s fault rather than the businessman’s.

  • Anonymous

    Religion in a legal context includes lack of religious beliefs. It doesn’t refer to organized religion

  • Mike

    So you don’t think he understood that discriminating against a group of people is wrong before this blew up on him?

    Doesn’t that bother you a little?

  • Anonymous

    Obvious troll is obvious

  • george.w

    What Rod Chlebek said.  

    I’d be really seriously annoyed IF there were a sign saying my group wasn’t welcome in a store AND IF the owner didn’t come to his senses and take it down AND IF he doubled down and continued to discriminate and refused to apologize.  

    And I’d be seriously amazed IF the owner took the sign down and apologized directly to Sam Singleton and told us he had actually been thinking about just dumping the whole belief thing… but that’d be practically a miracle and I don’t believe in miracles.  Instead what actually happened is the owner did something stupid, recognized it as such, took the sign down, and apologized to the targeted community.  A bit of progress.  Seriously, what else can we ask for?  

    Now I want to try “gelato”.  At least if it comes in chocolate.

  • Anonymous

    He violated people’s right to public accommodation.  You can not exclude people from a business based on religion.  As soon as he singled out a group and barred them from his “christian business” Andy violated the law. 

    Also, atheism is treated as a religious stance for purposes of the law so, yes, we get the same protections as the religious folk.  I don’t understand why people want to make the argument that since we’re atheists then we don’t have rights.  Absurd!

    If he wants to make a sincere and thorough apology, Andy needs to admit that what he did was a violation of people’s civil rights.  He has obligations as a business owner and since he’s obviously ignorant of these obligations he should also promise to take a class on Civil Rights law for business owners.

    If anyone wishes to file a formal complaint, this is the agency that handles them:

  • randall.morrison90

    The Civil Rights act says nothing about “lack of religious beliefs”.

    But, given your argument, atheism is then…in a legal context…a religion.

    Quit trying to have it both ways.

    The shop owner has free speech rights too

    Just like the jerk Sam Singleton does.

  • Anonymous

    The Missouri Commission on Human Rights has training classes.  Andy owns 2 businesses and obviously does not understand the obligations he has as a business owner, especially those that pertain to civil rights and public accommodation.  He can find help here:

  • randall.morrison90

    And atheism is obviously a religion. 

    And you have tried to smear this small time shop owner all around the country.

    And you wonder why the majority of people don’t trust you.

  • ed-words

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur!

  • Anonymous

    By posting a sign excluding certain people from his business he wasn’t exercising his right to free speech.  He was violating the civil right to public accommodation of the people he was excluding. 

    Atheism is not a religion, however, it is treated as a religious STANCE for purposes of civil rights, etc.  Are you seriously trying to argue that atheists have NO rights?  That’s just absurd!

  • ed-words

    Check the definition of religion in the dictionary.

    You’re not even close.

  • Anonymous

    Now, go draw Mohammed.  Wow, you’re deliberately provoking someone.  What you’re trying to do is suppress speech that you happen to find offensive.  If you want to play that game then I want to suppress every xian preacher because I find much of what THEY say to be vile, offensive and morally reprehensible. 

  • The ‘atheism is a religion’ line always amuses me – it’s like some Christians are saying ‘hey, you guys are just as irrational, deluded and narrow-minded as us religious folk’. 

  • Rich Wilson

    Title VII protects all aspects of religious observance and practice as well as belief and defines religion very broadly for purposes of determining what the law covers. For purposes of Title VII, religion includes not only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or that seem illogical or unreasonable to others. An employee’s belief or practice can be “religious” under Title VII even if the employee is affiliated with a religious group that does not espouse or recognize that individual’s belief or practice, or if few – or no – other people adhere to it. Title VII’s protections also extend to those who are discriminated against or need accommodation because they profess no religious beliefs.
    Yes, I know this is a Title II issue, not a Title VII issue.  But if you think the broad definition of ‘religion’ only applies to employment, then you’re just unintentionally obtuse, as opposed to intentionally obtuse.  Can’t help you there.

  • Nordog

    Verbum sursum.

  • Anonymous

    I would agree 100%.  There was an initial fervor on Reddit to write this guy wonderful letters saying what a great guy he is, and how they’ll come and give him a bunch of extra business because he’s just SOO wonderful.  Just to clarify- I think it’s good that he’s not doing it any more, some progress is better than none, I just don’t see why I should apologize to the bigot who got caught.

  • Floyd dei2anged Zamarripa

    Attributing threats to JT’s sarcasm was inappropriate and wrong and didn’t help my position against his opinion in the slightest. I regret that and edited the post. 

  • Charles Black

    By your logic, a blank word document would be an essay.

  • Charles Black

    Clearly the meaning of parody is lost on this person.

  • Pseudonym

    If that’s what they mean by it, you have to admit they do have a point.

  • Charles Black

    So are blank CDs movies now?

  • Pseudonym

     Even on this blog, there are plenty of people who seem to think that this guy’s motives are suspect because of his religion, which makes him incapable of seeing through his privilege. Intellectually lazy stereotyping goes both ways.

    Having said that, remember that this guy at least had a reason, even if he didn’t have an excuse: he wrote the sign while he was (rightly or wrongly) completely pissed off. We’ve all been there. Everyone is intellectually lazy when they’re in that state.

    I know exactly how this guy feels. Anyone who has mouthed off in the heat of the moment knows exactly how he feels. I wouldn’t want to be judged by what I say in moments like that and, according to the secular Golden Rule, I must extend that courtesy to others if they wish me to.

  • Pseudonym

     As a matter of curiosity, would you be annoyed if the organisers of Skepticon made it abundantly clear, by the acts they booked, that your group wasn’t welcome at the conference?

  • Whether or not atheism is a “religion” in common use of the term (as opposed to legal) is irrelevant.  Call it a religion if you like.  Humanism — which is *not* a “blank CD” — could be seen as a sort of religion, I suppose.

    I couldn’t care less.  It’s just a word.  Call it a religion if it makes it easier for you to keep calm and treat people with love as opposed to spite.  It changes nothing about what either atheism or humanism are.

    Usually people who get passionate that “atheism is a religion” are only interested in discrediting evolution, etc, but saying “see!  it’s not science, it’s religion!” and thereby undermine the influence of the most highly educated social classes.

    That’s completely separate from the issue at hand.  If you are motivated by anti-scientific-establishment concerns, you should be up front about it.  If you aren’t, you should drop the issue because it doesn’t matter at all.

  • Drew M.

    In fairness, it was amateur sarcasm. Kinda like someone who thinks, “No speaka de Englich,” is Spanish.

  • Because he’s not necessarily a bigot.

    The satire would have been quite hurtful to someone who believed that church services are sincere and full of value.  Afterall, it didn’t even attempt to be truthful and represent both sides of what church is about.

    He probably didn’t even think that he was banning “atheists” from his store.  Just *those* disrespectful jerks down the street.

    I don’t think he did the right thing.  But I do think he was justified in being miffed.  It must have been very hard for him to apologize so completely without adding any jabs like “Yes, I’m sorry — but to be fair, Skepticon owes me an apology too!”

    tl;dr: I don’t think he’s a bigot.  I think he’s human.  And he gets angry when he feels misrepresented.  Just like we skeptics do — and we do it all the goddam time (even if we don’t always make a shop-window mistake while we’re steaming).

  • I think your concern is legitimate.  Afterall, there are closed-minded bigots and trolls out there that simply are not willing to have a two-way dialogue, and will thrust their negative stereotype on you no matter how much you contradict it.

    And you’re probably right about even normal people will judge you from one slip-up if they’re predisposed to.  Just like we judged him as a closed-minded bigot from his one slip-up, when it’s clear now that he’s not.  He’s just a human being, no less judgmental than those of us who got irate at *him* from one pic posted on the Internet.

    It often takes my Christian friends a year or more of hanging around me consistently to overcome most of their assumptions about my moral beliefs or intellectual integrity, and I’m probably one of the most-respectful-of-Christian-faith atheists out there.  You’re right, it does take time and effort to learn about the Other.That’s why he’ll learn about atheists in as much as he has experiences with them.

    Luckily, the mostly positive response his apology received will send a positive message about the character of atheists.  If we’re lucky, that’ll be the biggest lesson he takes away from this.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I don’t see how reading from the Bible is something that Christians should be offended at.  To be fair, I’d be offended at someone reading the Bible, but that has more to do with the rape, murder and genocide more than “Gosh, those people were cursing!”

    As an aside, he was also one of the businesses that was offering discounts to people from Skepticon, he had plenty of time to find out about what it was in advance. Putting up a sign saying you’re not welcome when he had *advertised* that people should come to his store seems absurd.

  • TiltedHorizon

    Sorry Randall but the Federal Civil Rights Act does not agree with you. A patron does not need to be within an explicitly stated class to get protection as the law guarantees ALL people the right to “full and equal enjoyment of the goods”.

    In cases where a patron is not a member of a federally protected class, the question
    a judge will ask is whether the business’s refusal of service was
    arbitrary or if there was a specific interest in refusing
    service. Since Andy’s apology admits to a reactionary (i.e. arbitrary) refusal of service it would likely be deemed  illegal. 

    The only thing wrong here is that you appear to be suggesting that Atheists have no rights. 

  • TiltedHorizon

    2000a. Prohibition against discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation

    Equal access

    “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as
    defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

    Note how the law starts: “ALL”.

    A patron does not need to be a member of a protected class (i.e. race, color, religion, or national origin) in order to be protected as the word “ALL” covers everyone.

  • TiltedHorizon

    If you need to turn Atheism into a religion to diminish it then what does that say about religion? 

  • Brhood Hood

    I see no reason to accept his apology, skepticon being okay with it is no reason for me to think its now okay.

    If his sign had “Jewish” rather than “Atheist” then the situation would be different, as he could fully expect to end up in court for either illegal discrimination or perpetrating a hate crime.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad to see the matter is resolved. Like I said in a comment in the previous post (which Disqus ate so it never saw the light of day) he seems entirely sincere. To not accept his apology is to not accept that people can have discriminatory impulses but then regret them and change for the better. I’ve seen interviews with former white nationalists who are now dedicated to eliminating their former ideology. People can change, and sometimes it just takes a single event to make you realize you were wrong.

    Andy did something stupid and wrong. Andy undid the stupid and wrong thing. Andy then apologized profusely for the stupid and wrong thing while recognizing that it was both stupid and wrong. Andy followed up by thanking profusely those who found it within their hearts to forgive him. All in all, the very best resolution you could hope for in this situation.

    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, including Andy.

  • Summer Seale

    I wasn’t involved at all, heck I live in a different country (France).

    I am American, and I grew up in America most of my life, and I totally understand where American Atheists (such as myself) come off being very upset and pissed off about the way we are treated.

    Thing is: a lot of “Atheist Evangelism” lately is also trying to be positive – showing that we’re normal people, not the devil, and we aren’t to be feared. We can be kind and moral like anyone else (at least that’s what it seems to me we’re trying to get across a lot of times with the bus ads etc…)

    I know that this guy did wrong, and I’m absolutely sensitive to the situation if he had written, say “No Jews Allowed” or “No Blacks Allowed” or something like that. To me, it’s absolutely comparable.

    The problem, however, is that he did apologize – twice now. And before he did, he did talk to some people from our community who explained things to him and probably cooled him down.

    Yes, it’s stupid for him to get offended, and he probably realized that. Maybe he even realized that he acted in a hugely bigoted way. My guess is: at least now he has a bit more than a clue.

    If he’s trying to reach out and apologize, and even keep talking to us, why not put down our war shields and forgive him? First, it’s the right thing to do: Staying mad at him will only make him resentful of us when, in his mind, he’s tried to correct a wrong. It’s not gonna make him our friend or even understand us.

    Second: It’s a nice way to show that we *are* humanists, ethical, and moral people. We can forgive just like any Christian, Buddhist, or other loony toons religiously affiliated person. In fact, we can forgive even more because we aren’t required to loathe anyone without forgiveness or exception based on bronze-aged mentalities which we are commanded to make our own and justify.

    The fact is, it’s a good time to show that we can be *more* forgiving than others, and understanding, and make a show of it.

    I say we should forgive him, because it’s not only in his benefit and won’t make him a lifetime enemy, but it’s also beneficial to our cause. It will be a nice example. Perhaps it will change a lot of people’s minds when they hear of it. What better way than that to show that we’re good people without the bible? It sure is more effective than a bus or billboard ad.

    Remember: There are still a ton of people alive today who literally hated blacks in the south because of the way they were brought up. They were incredibly irrational and even evil in their actions. However, they learned from their mistakes. It is possible, little by little, to change – to say that a community is not the absolute evil that you thought it was. One has to give people the change and we humanist atheists should lead the way in many of these issues.

    I say forgive, and even maintain ties with him and his community. Show them that we aren’t ogres; that we’re moral; that we’re forgiving; and we do it all without god or holy texts. We do it out of humanity’s sake, and that they should understand that and try it as well sometime.

  • Mistakes happen.  No worries.


  • Jake

    The sign didn’t say “no atheists”, it said “no con-goers”.

    That’s an enormous difference, legally speaking.

  • Tom

    If people were allowed to own recorded CDs but blank ones were illegal, you’d actually have an analogy there.  And it wouldn’t be in favour of your position.

  • Michael

    Since all this has been going on I’ve heard a lot of people comparing it to their own experiences that led them to drop religion because it was making them act like nasty people.

    Just saying.

  • I never let my religion over rule my conscience, but then I’d feel guilty for following my conscience.

  • um…unless he’s discriminating against a protected class, he can legally exclude people from his business. 

    Seriously, the protections you speak of is not a blanket protection for every and any group. He can say “you have in formalwear to get service here” and guess what: if you aren’t dressed appropriately, he can deny you service. Legally.

    He can deny service to people with children. He can deny service to people with pets. Legally.

    He can’t deny service based on a small number of protected classes, religion being one of them. But he didn’t say “atheists”. He was denying, (FOR TEN WHOLE MINUTES and even then not really) service to CONVENTION GOERS.

    “Skepticon attendees” are not a protected class. 

  • Nonsense. He didn’t bar atheists, he barred convention goers. Big difference.

  • now, how does that apply to the explicitly labeled “skepticon attendees”. 

  • Nonsense. You can deny service to people for all sorts of arbitrary reasons. you can ban people with children in your childfree shop. You can ban people with non-service animals in your pet-free shop. You can ban people not wearing formal wear in your casualwearfree shop, or white after labor day in your no-white-after-labor-day-shop. YOu can ban people wearing reeboks in your Nike-only shop.

    As it turns out, you can ban HUGE groups of people from your private business for a rather huge range of reasons. Said actions may not be INTELLIGENT, but they aren’t illegal.

  • Oh like theists have any rights.

  • Ed-words

    Which religion is that?

  • jjramsey

    Um, the sign read, “Skepticon is NOT welcomed to my Christian Business.” The word “atheist” is nowhere on the sign, so simply switching out “Jewish” for “atheist” wouldn’t work.

  • ed-words

    Does this happen much in France?

  • Anonymous

    He barred convention goers based on their religious beliefs – or lack thereof. Period. That he added “in my Christian business” is a dead giveaway.

    However, Isilzha is completely overreacting. He made a bad decision in the heat of the moment and he saw that he was wrong. No need to drag this out any further.

  • TiltedHorizon

    I have to disagree, note my comment: “or if there was a specific interest in refusing service.”

    Meaning the denial of service has to be in the best interest of the business, i.e. business related.

    So yes, you can deny service as long as the decision to do so protects the business or pertains to business matters, it cannot be “just because”.

  • ed-words

    Put away your Latin phrases book, stupid. 
    You’re not fooling anyone.

  • I’m sorry, but banning “skepticon attendees” “in my christian business” does not appear to specify the beliefs of the attendees. The fact that his business is “christian” does not have anything to do with the religious beliefs of the attendees.

    and again, the idea you can’t refuse service to anyone, as stated in these threads over and over and over is simply incorrect. The number of businesses happily and legally refusing service to children and people with children that aren’t bars show that.

  • The Captain

    I love all these internet ninny’s who are screaming that what the guy did was “unforgivable”, and we need to take steps to shut his business down.

    First off, all of you look like just a bunch of petty, self-absorbed internet bullies. 

    And secondly… Fuck you! I’ve lived in the south. I’ve seen ACTUAL discrimination. Actual, bigotry, genuinely mean people, and hatred that lasts for generations. This guy did (and is) none of that. I know it’s hard to believe, with the terrible things this guy apparently did to you by having to hear about it over the internet but ya’ll got white people problems (and yes I’m white so fuck you for not knowing the hip parlance of the time). I know a lot of you are trying real hard to nail yourself to your atheistic crosses, and just like xtians, can’t wait to be “persecuted” against, take offense too something, and get to go on your self justified blood war against someone you don’t know for the pettiest of reasons, but get a grip douche bags and go learn what ACTUAL bigotry looks like. Maybe then you’ll learn to tell when it really happens.

  • kaileyverse

    FUCK YOU TOO – I’ve lived in the north, south and midwest – all bigotry is pretty much the same.  My grandfather, who grew up and spent his ENTIRE Life in Rochester, NY was a racist.  He was wholly embarrassing to be around as a child. He died before I felt comfortable calling him out on it.

    Atheists can be persecuted – and yes, this fellow is a bigot.

  • Bill

    Mike the Mad Biologist has a photo on his blog that made me think of Gelatogate.  😎

  • Anonymous

    Atheists and non-believers have been discriminated against and persecuted for many centuries.  Just because you haven’t experienced it doesn’t make it not true. 

    Oh, and I grew up in the South.  I left as soon as I could.  I hate going back because  everyone is so eager to shove their religion down my throat.  Although I often love the look on people’s faces when I say I’m an atheist it rarely makes life easier for me.  Atheists can experience REAL bigotry especially in areas like the South.

  • Anonymous

    He singled out a group and excluded him from his “christian business.’  The exclusion was GROUNDED on religion.  That is what makes it an illegal sign and a violation of others’ civil rights.

  • He is the one who made his Christianity an issue in the 1st place.  You can’t be the instigator and the victim at the same time. He stated his Christianity was the motive for the discrimination.

    The situation is is not comparable to someone simply mouthing off.   If I was offended by something someone said at a gay conference, and posted a sign that gay conference goers were not allowed in my heterosexual business;it would likely be national news.  Homosexuals are apparently better at getting people to care when they are discriminated against.

    I had gelato with my family before he put the sign up. The guy did ask us if we were with Skepticon.  There was an older man there that appeared to be a little hostile to us.  We blew it off.  We thought it was him that put the sign up, and we were surprised it was the younger man who did it.

  • Anonymous

    But Skepticon didn’t exclude anyone.  Andy could have attended the entire conference if he wanted.  He could have talked to everyone about how offensive he found it.  HOWEVER, he could not have been DISRUPTIVE to the proceedings because then he could legally have been thrown out.  Also, no one he tried to talk to at the conference would have been obligated to stand around and listen to him rant. 

    I’m not sure I even really understand what you mean.  Why should Skepticon even have to be concerned that their acts meet the approval of anyone except the people who would want to attend Skepticon.  I don’t think the Promise Keepers are too concerned about making sure their content is welcoming to women and atheists.

  • Rich Wilson

    I was addressing the fact that ‘lack of religious belief’ is a protected class under the Civil Rights Act.  As to whether ‘skepticon attendees’ is code for ‘atheist’ would be up to a court.  I think adding ‘christian business’ would probably be taken into consideration, at least by a higher court, but that wasn’t the point of my reply.

  • Anonymous

    You can mouth off.  However, a business owner has legal obligations to not exclude people from his business based on religious grounds.  That he put up such a sign means he doesn’t understand those obligations.  He should recognize that and promise to take a class in civil rights issues for business owners.

  • if your point isn’t getting across the way you want, maybe you should make it better? 

  • Anonymous

    But…you CAN’T exclude people from your business on the grounds of religion. 

  • Anonymous

    Doesn’t matter, Andy made it a religious issue when he put “christian business” on the sign.

  • which neither you nor anyone have yet to prove he did. He EXPLICITLY labeled “Skepticon attendees” as the excluded class. Not. A. Religion.

    The fact he labeled his business as “Christian” is a tenuous link at best, but you’d need a hell of a lawyer to prove it. Especially considering the SIGN WAS ONLY UP FOR TEN FRIGGIN’ MINUTES. 

    Ye gods, who was *actually* denied service?



    So there’s no actual damage, there’s no actual standing. A rude sign? Maybe. But that’s not illegal. you have to actually discriminate against someone based on their religion, or lack thereof to be guilty of that. You have to commit the crime first. That never happened. 

    “Minority Report” is still, as of yet, fiction.

  • Rich Wilson

    Maybe you’re the only one not getting the point?

  • Anonymous

    Again, he EXCLUDED people on the grounds of religion.  That is illegal.  I realize there are people who want it to NOT be illegal and who want to have the right to exclude anyone for any reason.  However, under current law business owners have certain legal obligations they must uphold.  If they don’t want to do so, then they can close their business. 

  • Not in the way you’re claiming. Again, he did not specifically exclude based on religion. you have to go on actual evidence, not on what you imagine him to be thinking.

  • Anonymous

    It doesn’t matter.  Andy excluded based on religious grounds.  A sign just saying “Skepticon Not Welcomed” would actually make the situation different.  I don’t think the civil right’s violation would be as clear though I may argue that it was implied.  However, as soon as he added “christian business” to the sign he made the exclusion of an entire group of people based on religious grounds.  Under civil right’s law this is unlawful discrimination.

  • No, he did not. he excluded them on the basis of being skepticon attendees. There’s no argument on that. It’s on the sign. “Skepticon is NOT welcome”.

    Not “atheists”. “Skepticon”. Not a religion.

    This is black and white. (Well Red and Yellow). The sign’s words are clear as to the group excluded. “Skepticon”. That’s not a religious exclusion. 

  • Again. Because you can’t read. “Skepticon NOT welcome”. Fact. Not debatable.

    You cannot prove the “christian store” part as being illegal discrimination unless you choose to take him to court. If it means that much to you, good luck. 

    But right now, you have nothing other than opinion to prove your assertion as to “christian business”

  • Anonymous

    As soon as he posted the sign he was excluding people.  They didn’t actually have to go into the store and be turned away for them to be excluded.  In fact, the sign tells them if they had gone into the store they wouldn’t be served or even thrown out.  Good for Andy that he didn’t go THAT far, however, it doesn’t make posting the sign NOT an illegal act.

  • Summer Seale

    No, I would say that it never happens. It’s a breath of fresh air living in a country in which you can say you’re an Atheist and nobody looks at you weird.

    I am American, however, and I’ve lived in the Northeast, South, Southwest, and West coast. I can tell you that I understand where the pissed off people are coming from, but it’s better to strive to be above that.

    Sometimes, one should lead by example. I think this is such a case.

  • Rich Wilson

    It’s hardly black and white, which is why we have courts.  If you’ve read any legal decisions in this area, you’d see there are a whole lot of nuances taken into consideration.  Most of us think adding “Christian Business” to the sign is a smoking gun.  You can disagree all you want, but since this is extremely unlikely to go to court, we’re all just spouting our opinions and we’ll never know who’s ‘right’.

    As for anyone being excluded, we have his word (and I accept it) that he didn’t personally turn anyone away. However we don’t know if anyone saw the sign, and because of it decided to turn away.  I doubt it, but it’s an unknown.

    At this point I’m going to take my opinion and go home, because this has long since reached ‘SWIWOTI’.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s some black & white for ya:

    2. It is an unlawful discriminatory practice for any person, directly or
    indirectly, to refuse, withhold from or deny any other person, or to attempt
    to refuse, withhold from or deny any other person, any of the accommodations,
    advantages, facilities, services, or privileges made available in any place
    of public accommodation, as defined in section 213.010 and this section, or to
    segregate or discriminate against any such person in the use thereof on the
    grounds of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, or

  • Anonymous

    Again, he made it ON.THE.GROUNDS.OF.RELIGION as soon as he added ‘christian business’.

  • Nonsense, he was pointing out his religion because that was what being mocked at Skepticon.   The specific group being excluded was Skepticon attendees and that could include anyone including Christians.

  •  There have been commenters who claim to have seen the sign and walked away.

  • So you think a sign that says “No homophobes welcome in this gay business” would be excluding heterosexuals?   Nope sorry, doesn’t work.   The excluded group in this example is “homophobes”.   The term “gay business” is just a factual statement.  If the guy is christian and owns the store then it is a “christian business”.  So what?

  • Nope, and now you are getting ridiculous with the “code word” stuff.    You have zero evidence that he was using it as a code word for atheist.   It means what it means.    I really hate this kind of leftist bullshit where you twist peoples meanings around by reinterpreting words to new meanings.  

    How do you propose that we refer to “skepticon attendees” now that you have independently decided that means “atheist”.


  • Wrong.

  •  “But, given your argument, atheism is then…in a legal context…a religion.”

    Wrong.    That you are not allowed to ban those who do not have the same religious beliefs does not make those people a religion.   There is no religion called “non-Christian” for instance.   In your ridiculous argument Jews and Muslims belong to the same religion because they are both non-Christians.

  • Restating a false statement doesn’t make it correct.

  •  “You all” as in the bigoted and prejudiced sense of assuming everyone you label is identical in opinion.  You [no all] bigot.

  • Does “I <3 you guys" mean "I tiny penis  you guys", cause that's what it looks like.

  • Zaskarzerbe

    Unfortunately, I think the best way to affect change in this world is by money. My cardinal rule is not to support businesses with religious agendas. I hope this business goes under, and it will show that bigotry is bad business. I have the local Christian business directory so I know where i won’t spend my money. Would you eat at Chic-Filet tomorrow if they gave an apology for their past policies?

  • I find the weirdest thing about
    all this back and forth is how certain all the non-lawyers posting are about legal opinions. This
    is a fantastic illustration of the difference between atheism and skepticism:
    the later involves withholding opinion (or moderating your opinion) in
    accordance with the evidence (which, on a technical matter, is clearly lacking
    here). Since I am a scientist, and not a lawyer, I decided to actually write
    the experts on accommodation law for a opinion. It is obviously extremely preliminary,
    but I pass it on for interest. (I note as well that the connection between
    Skepticon and religion/irreligion is further weakened–the ACLU would not know
    this–by the response from Skepticon organizers to objections from scientific
    skeptics last year that they were in fact an just an atheist convention, e.g., .)

    **Note: This is an email sent to
    me by the local chapter of the ACLU. It may not represent their official
    opinion. It should be read as such.** 

    “It may be a violation of state and federal
    public accommodations laws, but — as you note — attending the convention is
    not necessarily an act of religious faith or irreligion.  So, it may not
    even be that.  I have not received any complaints from anyone who felt
    discriminated against by this businessman’s practices, and I doubt we would get
    involved in any case.

    Doug Bonney

    Chief Counsel & Legal

    ACLU of Kansas & Western

    Direct: (816) 994-3311”

  • Bo Tait

    I feel you on this, John. I read this site all the time and I think people are deliberately shutting their brains off to your argument. The sign was for skepticon attendees. So by that logic, an atheist not participating in skepticon would be welcome.  People can argue over the nuances of his intended meaning, but John is right. This guy was pissed off at a particular Skepticon attendee and not every atheist in America. 

    Its closed minded comments on issues like these that remind me to always value being a skeptic over being an athiest. 

  • Pseudonym

    As feminists are quick to point out, you don’t have to throw someone out to exclude them.

    Interestingly, Andy sounds like exactly the sort of person who might have gotten something out of Skepticon were it a science and critical thinking convention rather than an atheism convention.

  • Pseudonym

    On the contrary, the organisers of Skepticon made religion an issue in the first place. They’ve made that abundantly clear by both their words and deeds.

    The analogy with a gay conference is not a very good one. Gay conferences typically don’t have events where they mock straight people. (Bigots, perhaps, but not straight people.)

  • Anonymous

    “It’s been an emotional roller coaster for me and my family…” I don’t much care.  Guy makes a mistake and apologises for it.  Fair enough.  However, it is a bit self absorbed to then claim some kind of emotional turmoil as a result of all the bad publicity about his own negative action.

  • Pseudonym

    I and the public know
    What all schoolchildren learn:
    Those to whom evil is done
    Do evil in return.

    — W.H. Auden

  • Pseudonym

    I know you’re being snarky, but I should point out that it’s not a question of Andy’s rights. It’s a question of whether or not it’s okay to blame Andy for being human, especially considering how much we all enjoy pointing out that certain religions are quick to condemn people to eternal torture for being human.

  • Pseudonym

    While I think of it, most gay conference organisers don’t believe that if you just thought clearly and dropped your prejudices, you would be gay too.

  • Again you are equivocating and cherry picking. 

    Let’s say hypothetically I was offended by something at a gay conference.   I am not entitled to discriminate against serving gay people at my hypothetical business. Even if a speaker openly mocked heterosexuals. I don’t claim to know what goes on at gay conferences never having been to one even if that was relevant to the point which it isn’t.

  • The Captain

    Did he do something stupid? Sure, but if 5 minutes of stupidity marks someone a “bigot” for life to you then you are seriously fucked up. 

    Like I’ve said, I’ve seen actual bigotry and hatred in my life. If this guy was a real bigot he wouldn’t have apologized at all. Like many people I have know, they stand by what they say. 

    I’ve also seen people do things much worse than this. Ohhhhhhh Your grand diddy said racist things. Yea your an expert then. Come back and tell me about real bigotry when you wake up on the floor with a boot print on your back. Tell me about hatred when you drive your car through a yard to hit someone. Let me know when your car has shit thrown on it for who you are. When your friends literally kick the teeth in of some kid for showing up to the “wrong” party. How many times has your tires been cut? Every seen a gun pulled on someone for who they are? Wow this guy got madd and put up a sign for 5 minutes. I’ve seen “niggers leave” signs in peoples yards for decades!

    Then explain to me how many of the people involved in all that fucked up shit I just mentioned can grow up, and forgive each other for the shit they did, while a bunch of internet douche bags can’t forgive a guy for his 5 minute sign!

  • Pseudonym

    I thought I made my point clear: Andy’s actions weren’t excusable, but they were understandable. They are understandable because we’ve all been there.

    If a conference came to my town, and I stumbled across them mocking something I held dear, it would annoy me. If, for some reason, I got angry enough, which could happen regardless of whether or not the anger is justified, chances are good I would say things that I would later honestly regret.

    I hope I would have the presence of mind to avoid venting my catecholamine-fuelled “opinions” in a public arena, and to wait until I had a chance to calm down and look at things rationally before speaking to anyone else. But if I slipped, I hope everyone else would forgive me.

  • Anonymous

    Your final sentence tells us all we need to know about your stance on this issue.  Thanks for playing.

  • Anonymous

    I understand his discontent was fueled by a single person, but by excluding all of Skepticon (and all attendees therein), with his sign, he made it about all attendees, not just that single person.  He inferred that that person represented the whole of the attendance and thus, those of a different religious belief BECAUSE he included “Christian business” on his sign.

  • Anonymous

    Legally speaking, I guess… but by adding “Christian business” to his sign, he was specifying religion as his motivation.

  • Anonymous

    Let me make this simple for you… no one is suing.  Hence, “legal” makes no difference for the majority of us reading. 

    That said, he made a knee-jerk reaction to a silly religion-related issue.  The sign was intended to turn away anyone who didn’t agree with his religious beliefs.  That is evident by the “Christian business” part of the sign.

    Given that, I would no longer go to his business because that knee-jerk reaction tells me how he feels about nonbelievers in his gut.

    I’d feel the same way if he’d said “straight business” after going to a Pride event and finding it was about gays.  I’m not gay, but I would refuse to go to his business because of his prejudice.

    I don’t have any intention of suing… but I’d prefer to give my money to another business that I KNOW is gay- or religion-friendly or that has no stance on the issues of which I’m aware than to knowingly give my money to a bigot.

    It’s that simple.  Argue legalities all you want, but for me, it is a visceral reaction to his knee-jerk reaction.

  • Anonymous

    Let me make this simple for you… no one is suing. Hence, “legal” makes no difference for the majority of us reading.

    That said, he made a knee-jerk reaction to a silly religion-related issue. The sign was intended to turn away anyone who didn’t agree with his religious beliefs. That is evident by the “Christian business” part of the sign.

    Given that, I would no longer go to his business because that knee-jerk reaction tells me how he feels about nonbelievers in his gut.

    I’d feel the same way if he’d said “straight business” after going to a Pride event and finding it was about gays. I’m not gay, but I would refuse to go to his business because of his prejudice.

    I don’t have any intention of suing… but I’d prefer to give my money to another business that I KNOW is gay- or religion-friendly or that has no stance on the issues of which I’m aware than to knowingly give my money to a bigot.

    It’s that simple. Argue legalities all you want, but for me, it is a visceral reaction to his knee-jerk reaction.     

  • ed-words

    You probably agree that, while trying not to deliberately
    irritate one’s opponents, it usually can’t be avoided
    as you “take them on” in court etc.

    Those seeking equal rights should focus on getting them.
    Changing minds is a bonus. 

  • ed-words

    I’ll take that as a compliment.

  • we heart local businesses? Do people really say that?

  • kaileyverse

    This isn’t the Olympics of suffering.  Beatings, Stabbings and abuse that come out of bigotry are everywhere.   Where did I say that I don’t believe his apology or he shouldn’t be given a second chance, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t a bigot.

  • Mairianna

    If a Skepticon attendee went into his establishment without a convention badge on, how would anyone know whether they were 1.) a Skepticon attendee, or 2.) a non-theist?    Unless they were blatantly advertising their beliefs, most likely, they would have gotten served and Andy wouldn’t have been the wiser. 

    Andy just made the sad leap in logic that “if one athiest makes fun of the bible and making fun of the bible is bad, then all atheists make fun of the bible and all atheists are bad.”  Andy just isn’t a good critical thinker and probably reacted to his emotions. 

    Whether it was a violation of rights or not, you have to pick and choose your battles.  I don’t think this is a valid battle. 

  • Nordog

    Id est, hominibus.

  • Jason

    A lawyer in Kansas City has been in touch with Andy about a Libel Suit involving Skepticon.

    I kid you not.

    Its a real possiblity.

  • Jason

    Actually, Doug, there is a lawyer in KC who thinks ANDY could have a case for Liibel.

    How about Andy’s rights for all the pummeling he has received nationally from these guys?

  • Jason

    I mights add that the jerk Sam Singleton set this off.

    He is not helping atheism.

  • Jason

    Nope.  Brother Sam made his Christianity an issue.

    Brother Sam intends to  provoke.

    He got a reaction, just as he hoped.

    So quit whining.  You all got your “issue” to chew on like a Dog With a Bone.

  • Jason

    I wonder what Andy REALLY thinks of Atheists now?  What his family thinks of them?

    If I were his kid, I would grow up hating atheists for what they are doing to my dad.

    Which is funny, because I haven’t forgotten what they did to MY dad.

  • Anonymous

    But Skepticon itself had nothing to do with the storeowner’s action (Putting up a civil rights violating sign saying your business isn’t welcome in my christian store) nor did Skepticon have anything to do with the internet blowback.

    The only thing I could see as a result is him using this as an opportunity to beat the drums and say that atheists ruined his small business.  I mean, he’d leave out the part about how he put up a sign saying its a Christian business and how you’re not welcome inside.

  • I think I also said that I would forgive him if he learns more about atheists from this experience and stops stereotyping a group from the actions of one person.

    Where I disagree with you is if this is similar to mouthing off about something.  It is no longer acceptable to settle grievances with fists, knives, or guns even in the heat of the moment.

    It is not the same thing as mouthing off to someone you disagree with that is not illegal. What is illegal is to discriminate against a group of people no matter the grievance. It is no different from a “No Irish” sign in an establishment for whatever reason. Even if an Irishman were to rob him, it still wouldn’t be understandable to hang a “No Irishmen” sign in the window.

    The stereotyping is what is important to me. 

  • I think you are attributing motives to Brother Sam that you have no way of knowing whether he truly intended to provoke someone like Andy or not. 

    Brother Sam styles himself as an “atheist evangelist.” I don’t think he is aiming to provoke the choir so to speak.
    A lot of comedy is intentionally offensive or plays with stereotypes.  For example, Eddie Murphy has made millions of dollars parodying his relatives and black stereotypes.  Does he provoke people on purpose or draw attention to how silly some things are?

  • No, no, he referred to his OWN religion in conjunction with his business. THAT’S the SEKRET CODE WERDZ.

    it’s not a leftist thing. It’s not a right-wing thing. It’s an ideologue thing. Political leanings neither inoculate nor make you more vulnerable to it.

  • only because i’m not an offensensitive ideologue wanting a pound of flesh in revenge.

  • LolaLouboutin

    Personally, I could give a shit if he apologizes until Zombie Jesus shows his face on Earth again.  I was at Skepticon and went to Gelato Mio with a friend that Saturday afternoon to grab a cup of coffee.  The counter help was surly (not the owner, but an older “gentleman”), I didn’t get the coffee I paid for, and there were no stir sticks or spoons or anything on the prep cart with the cream, sugar, etc.  Ok, fine.  But my friend ended up in line behind another woman, with 2 young men behind her.  When the woman in front of my friend had completed her transaction, he looked at my friend, then looked past her to the men standing behind her and asked if he could help them!  And yes, he knew she was there, he had already spoken to her once about the restroom, and she was in his eye-line, directly in line between the woman and the male customers.  Then when she did get her coffee, one of the cups was only 1/2-full.  So I had a bad taste in my mouth from this business BEFORE the incident with the sign.  Would I go back to this business?  No.  But it has VERY LITTLE to do with that ridiculous sign and VERY VERY MUCH to do with how poorly we were treated in that business.

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