No Room for Atheists at the Country Club
DETROIT (CN) - A group says in federal court a country club canceled its reservation for a dinner and book-signing upon finding that the guest of honor, Richard Dawkins, is an atheist.
The Center for Inquiry sued Golf Course Services LLC dba The Wyndgate, and its owner, Larry Winget, for breach of contract and civil rights violations.
"The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values," the group says on its Internet home page.
Dawkins, who is not a party to the complaint, is an evolutionary biologist, best-selling author, an emeritus professor of New College, Oxford, and was Oxford's Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 2995 until 2008. Among his best-selling books are "The Selfish Gene," "The Blind Watchmaker," and "The God Delusion."
The Center for Inquiry claims the Wyndgate, a posh private country club in Rochester Hills, Mich., canceled its reservation on 6 days notice after Winget said he "put two and two together" after seeing Dawkins interviewed on TV.
The Center booked a room for 100 at the Wyndgate for an Oct. 12, 2011, "Dawkins Dinner," dugin which Dawkins would discuss his books while Center members ate and drank in a social and educational setting, according to the complaint.
But a Wyndgate event planner canceled the dinner on Oct. 6.
The complaint states: "Golf Services' event coordinator said to the Center for Inquiry-Michigan's Assistant Director the following (or words to the effect of):
"a. 'We will be unable to host your event;'
"b.'The owner [of the Wyndgate] does not wish to associate with certain individuals and philosophies;'
"c. 'My boss didn't realize until a few days ago who your author was for this book signing and dinner.'
"d. 'The owner [of the Wyndgate] called me into his office this morning and said that he would not host your event because he saw Richard Dawkins on Bill O'Reilly last night and he put two and two together.'
"The references to 'the owner' are Defendant Larry Winget.
"The reference to 'Richard Dawkins on Bill O'Reilly' refers to a television interview of Richard Dawkins which Bill O'Reilly conducted during his nationally broadcast show, 'The O'Reilly Factor.'"
Dawkins spoke on the "Personal Story" segment of the Fox TV show on Oct. 5, which was captioned "Advocating Atheism" and "Richard Dawkins: Atheist," according to the complaint.
The Center seeks damages for discrimination and breach of contract and a declaratory judgment to block Wyndgate from discriminating against organizations based on their religious beliefs.
It is represented by Megan Bonanni of Pitt McGehee.