April 29, 2009 in Antwerp, Belgium
Photo: Mark Renders/Stringer / Getty
Richard Dawkins had been scheduled to speak at the the Wyndgate Country Club in Rochester Hills, Michigan. That was changed almost at the last minute, though, because someone decided that they didn't want to be "associated with" a prominent atheist and scientist like Dawkins. What's more, there's a good chance that what the Wyndgate Country Club did is against the law.
"This is sheer bigotry," Dawkins said. "If the country club had said, 'I'm not having Dawkins speak because he's a Jew, or because he's black, or because he's gay,' they would never get away with it." Managers with the Wyndgate Country Club did not return calls and messages seeking comment. ..."It clearly violates the spirit of the Civil Rights Act," he said.
Source: Detroit Free Press
Actually, the actions of the Wyndgate Country Club may violate the letter of the Civil Rights Act as well...
Although privately owned, The Wyndgate facilities are open to the public for special events and occasions. According to Title II of the Federal Civil Rights Law of 1964, "open to the public" means "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."
"It's important to understand that discrimination based on a person's religion--or lack thereof--is legally equivalent to discriminating against a person because of his or her race," said Jeff Seaver, executive director of CFI-Michigan. "This action by The Wyndgate illustrates the kind of bias and bigotry that nonbelievers encounter all the time. It's exactly why organizations like CFI and the Richard Dawkins Foundation are needed: to help end the stigma attached to being a nonbeliever."
Source: Center for Inquiry
Imagine if the Wyndgate Country Club had refused to be associated with a Jew or Muslim. Imagine if they had refused to let someone speak simply because they were a female or gay. They could get away with such crass bigotry if they were a fully private institution, but as soon as they opened up their doors to rent their facilities to the public, they agreed to submit to the public regulations of how such rentals can managed.
The organization itself may be entirely private and, as such, they may refuse to admit atheists, women, blacks, Jews, Catholics, and a whole host of "inferior" types. That's legal. Refusing to rent a hall to atheists, women, blacks, Jews, Catholics, and other minorities even though the rental is made available to the public generally is not legal.