Atheist Group Triumphs in Religious Discrimination Case

A Michigan atheist group has announced that, in a case that saw the group sue a country club on religious discrimination grounds, a settlement has been reached, therein appearing to break new ground in protecting the freedom not to hold a religious faith.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome of this case, which we regard as an unqualified vindication of the rights of nonbelievers,” Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, is quoted as saying. “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.”

The case stems from an incident in October 2011.

CFI, an organization describing itself as advocating for science, reason and secular values, had contacted Wyndgate Country Club of Rochester Hills, Michigan, to use its publicly available venue space to hold a 100 seat, $95 per ticket dinner.

However, the club later called to cancel after the club’s owner realized that the guest speaker at the event was to be renowned ethologist, evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins has become a prominent and vocal critic of religion and a promoter of both scientific literacy and skepticism against religious dogma. His best selling books include “The Selfish Gene,” ”The God Delusion,” ”The Greatest Show on Earth,” and his most recent work, “The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True.” Dawkins regularly features in high-profiled debates with theologians the world over and has been a particular thorn in the side of creationists.

The Wyndgate club’s owner, Larry Winget, had reportedly seen Dawkins on The O’Reilly Factor discussing his atheism and opposition to religion and, according to the suit, had instructed his staff to tell CFI organizers that he did not want to “associate with certain individuals and philosophies.” Winget appeared to believe that, as he owned the club, he was free to do as he wished per his own religious rights.

The CFI, however, disagreed and filed a lawsuit in April 2012 alleging violations of Title II of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public accommodations, and the Michigan Civil Rights Act

Now, the Wyndgate has chosen to settle the case and has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to the CIF. The settlement also calls for Wyndgate staff to undergo “sensitivity training” that will reportedly educate them regarding the rights of atheists and how federal and state law applies in public accommodations like the venue they have made available for public use.

This comes as atheists, agnostics, humanists and the wider non-believing community are increasingly “coming out” against the assumed norm of religious belief, with groups arising in the military and a more cognizable presence forming in schools and on university campuses.

This of course may be seen as somewhat of a push back against the rising religious fervor in some states where lawmakers appear to be going to great lengths to give religious privilege greater weight in legislation, as evidenced by Michigan’s own previously proposed religious exemptions in bullying to Tennessee’s revived legislation that seeks to exempt religious groups in universities from having to follow standard operating practices and nondiscrimination provisions.


Related Reading:

Taking Atheism To The Next Level

You Say “Tree-Hugging Atheist Coven” Like It’s a Bad Thing

Atheists About As Trustworthy As Rapists To The Faithful

Image credit: Thinkstock.


Miya Eniji
Miya Eniji5 years ago

Anyine else reading this post now ( 02.june)?? notice that {God loves you}...{ begin t. relationship now} advert on 1 side ?? it says : [Jesusonline] There is no such thing as coincidence... this must be placed here deliberately. Crikey, what next ?

Darryll Green
Darryll Green5 years ago

Dawn L , for your information, i am a born again christian fundimentalist AND the bible does not encourage racism unless you twist the passages to read that way, which you seem quit able to, the majority of christians are NOT racists, we can't help it if a few a$#holes put their stupidity out there and call themselves christian, so far most of the racists comments are against christians and espoused by YOU liberals, the idiot running the hall had no reason to not rent it except his own stupidity, but this lawsuit will be used by you liberals to push your way into our community just so you can say your winning in a game you already lost
@ Darryll G. - Then using your has been okay for fundamentalists and other backward thinking people in the South to still believe that their Bible encourages/endorses their racists beliefs. Let's go even further than that...if you believe in racism in public places (like this country club) have no problem telling non-whites to head to the back of the bus or you are not welcome here?

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

A success. Of course religious folk feel SO oppressed, the majority of them know next to nothing of oppression

Christine Jones
Christine J5 years ago

I can't believe how litigious Americans have become; they seem to sue at the drop of a hat. I agree with Victoria S. I would have chosen another venue, thought "Well if they don't want my business it's their loss", and just moved on.

Carl Nielsen
Carl Nielsen5 years ago

The term Heathen does not say what you are - it says what you are not. It come from a context where there are Heathens, heretics and true belivers.
So what are you? Norse Pagan, Suomenusko Pagan, Romovu Pagan, some sort of Shamanist, some sort of Animist, Wicca, some other faith created in the 20th century or something completely different?

Annmari Lundin
Annmari L5 years ago

I'm not an atheist. I'm a heathen. Most people call me an atheist because they don't know there's a difference. There is. Learn it.

Linda McKellar
Past Member 5 years ago

Carl, I don't intend to argue but as far as I'm concerned I see no proof EITHER way so I just don't worry about it. The idea of whether there is or isn't a god is totally irrelevant to me. I don't feel I have to meet certain criteria to please any organization, "supernatural" being, church or otherwise to be a good person. That desire is inate in me. Maybe that makes me unique as an atheist. I just go through life enjoying it, being the best person I can, savouring all that is good in the world and not worrying about dying since I can't do diddley squat about it. Do you think that's wrong? I'm quite happy with my life and hope others, regardless of their beliefs can be the same. I'm not out to prove anything because I can't and, as far as I know, neither can anyone else so why worry? Peace, over and out.

Carl Nielsen
Carl Nielsen5 years ago

Linda - Atheism IS an active belief. Or do you have more proof that no god exists than others have for the theorem that soem god exists?

Linda McKellar
Past Member 5 years ago

Actaully Robert, I don't comprehend your post. You state "some believers are so ignorant" and have "mental impairment" while I have clearly expressed myself as an atheists. Don't read just one posting out of context without reading those previously posted by the same people before making a judgement.

Victoria S.
Victoria S5 years ago

I know this was a case of discrimination against atheists, but I don't see why you would bother suing them over it. If it was me, I would have just booked a different venue and thought no more of it.