The University of Missouri has a women’s volleyball game airing on ESPN’s SEC Network this weekend, so they want as many people in the crowd as possible to really sell that school pride to the viewing audience. The promotions team, as you might expect, is doing whatever it can to make sure those seats are filled.
That’s why they decided to offer free tickets to anyone who brought in a church bulletin.
You might also notice on that screenshot a link to a voucher for “Free Admission.” That was added only recently.
The Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists and Agnostics on campus (MU SASHA) noticed the original offer as well as the revised one and sent the promotions manager an email explaining the legal problems with the church bulletin discount:
We still feel that the original promotion is unnecessary and inappropriate; although not technically illegal, this practice shows a clear bias against those who do not attend church or those who do not believe. The voucher still requires prior knowledge and printing, whereas the church bulletin does not.
On behalf of all those unfairly discriminated against by this practice, in a legal sense or because of the message it sends, we respectfully request that you discontinue the church bulletin promotion for this weekend’s event and in the future. We look forward to hearing from you when you have decided how to remedy this issue.
In a separate email, they also asked what prompted the free voucher offer. Did people in the promotions department know they were doing something wrong and try to cover their butts? And how come the free voucher wasn’t offered in other instances with the church bulletin promotion?
We’re also very curious about what prompted the introduction of the free voucher earlier this week (between Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon at some point, well after the initial church bulletin discount had been announced and advertised), as we cannot find any other instances of free vouchers being offered alongside church bulletin discounts in the past. Is this a new policy in response to the recent rulings that church bulletin discounts are illegal without other equal options?
The responses they received were less than satisfying. You can read the full back-and-forth exchanges here. Kudos to the group leaders for not letting this slide.
The big question I have is why the school continues running the church bulletin promotion when the voucher already gets you in for free. It’s completely redundant at this point — and MU SASHA’s right; it unnecessarily promotes Christianity at the expense of everyone else.
At this point, since the school is essentially giving away tickets, why not just forget the vouchers and bulletins altogether? Just say “EVERYONE CAN COME FOR FREE” and don’t even bother checking pieces of paper when people walk in. Or, if it’s too late to do that or they want to make *some* money on the game, why not just put up a statement on the site saying that bulletins from any religious or non-religious service will also be accepted?
I’ve sent my own email to the school asking that question. I’ll update this post if/when I hear back.