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.
In April of last year, the Center for Inquiry, an organization advocating for science, reason, and secular values, brought suit against the Wyndgate Country Club of Rochester Hills, Michigan for violation of both the federal and state civil rights laws, as well as breach of contract, after it cancelled an October, 2011 CFI-Michigan event featuring famous atheist Richard Dawkins. The club tried to justify breaking its contract by stating that “the owner does not wish to associate with certain individuals and philosophies.” The club’s representative specifically cited a concern over Dawkins’ appearance on The O’Reilly Factor a few days before, in which Dawkins’ atheism was the chief topic.
“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.