Camp Quest Discriminated Against in Oklahoma

As you may have heard by now, Camp Quest Oklahoma was thrown out of a fundraiser that they had arranged at a BBQ joint called Oklahoma Joe’s. Dave Muscato, PR Director for American Atheists, spoke to the organizers of the event and has the details in that Reddit thread:

Around Dec/Jan, they approached Joe’s about doing a fundraiser. Her husband’s cousin is a manager there. She and her husband (I assume this is Joseph Eversole whom Joe Davidson mentioned) had lunch with him, told him all about the camp. He said that sounds like fun, and said that Joe and Paige (the owners of the restaurant) would probably like to do something. They asked for more info.

They went back and talked to the owner, Paige Davidson. They told her what the camp did, how they promote it, that CQ-OK is a science & education camp for children 8-17, used the words “secular humanist,” said they do not discriminate, said they are specifically a science camp, they do not promote religion, they do not promote atheism, they do not indoctrinate kids; they are solely about science.

They were asked, “Are you religious?” She answered, “I used to be,” said she was trying to find a camp in the Bible Belt that doesn’t focus on religion and that’s how she got involved with Camp Quest.

They said, give us some info and we’ll see what we can do. She gave them a letter that she gives to all donors with info about CQ, their 501(c)(3) status, her business card, etc. From my understanding it is clear from this information that they are a secular, non-religious organization.

They were put on the calendar. For 2-3 weeks now, they have been distributing flyers. The flyers include a blurb that includes the word “freethinker” and humanist. The flyer was approved by the restaurant. They had a table set up, a computer for a slideshow, brochures, stickers, etc. They ate dinner, and within an hour, Joe (the owner) came up to them and said “We need to talk.”

Her husband, Joseph, went outside with Joe the owner. She said, “This is not good; they’re going to ask us to leave.”

They were outside for about 20 minutes and her husband came back and said, “We have to leave; they’ve asked us to leave.”

Oklahoma Joe’s admits that this was pure discrimination on the basis of the group’s atheism, posting this sign at the restaurant:

okjoes

A lawsuit should be filed immediately. This is very similar to what happened to us at CFI Michigan in late 2011 when a country club canceled a dinner with Richard Dawkins. The fact is that it does not matter whether the group was clear about their atheism or not, it is a violation of federal law and Oklahoma state law as well. Federal law says:

All persons shall be entitled to be free, at any establishment or place, from discrimination or segregation of any kind on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin, if such discrimination or segregation is or purports to be required by any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, rule, or order of a State or any agency or political subdivision thereof.

Any business that offers public accommodation (that is, if they’re open to the public) cannot discriminate on the basis of religion, and that includes discrimination against atheists. The country club that discriminated against CFI Michigan just settled that suit, which they were likely to lose if they went to trial.

What Oklahoma Joe’s did is illegal. They need to be held accountable for it.

31 comments on this post.
  1. otrame:

    Oh, they will be. As public ally as possible, I hope. Don’t let them settle. People need to understand that they are not allowed to do this sort of thing.

  2. SallyStrange:

    Amazing how they can write one paragraph that basically boils down to, “we will not provide service to just anyone–atheists are not okay with us,” and then, in the next paragraph, write, “We will provide service to anyone.”

    Like, the cognitive dissonance. How do they even…?

  3. Camp Quest Oklahoma fundraiser nixed by Christian business owner.:

    [...] Ed Brayton is saying that what the restaurant did was illegal: [...]

  4. tuxedocartman:

    Anybody know if this Oklahoma Joe’s has any connection to the chain of the same name in the Kansas City area? If so, I know some friends who need to know so they can find a new BBQ joint.

  5. Neil Rickert:

    These beliefs do not align with the Christian philosophy of our organization

    The behavior of Oklahoma Joe’s does not align with the teachings of Jesus.

  6. TCC:

    Is this actually illegal? The arrangement is a fundraiser, and (although IANAL) I’m not aware that businesses have to contribute to any given cause. Supporters of Camp Quest, atheists, secular humanists, etc. aren’t being denied service; they’re simply being denied this additional, non-vital privilege of the business helping them with fundraising. It’s not right for Oklahoma Joe’s to cancel the fundraiser with such short notice, but unless CQ can show some proximal damages (e.g. extra costs for materials to set up at the restaurant), I’m not sure on what basis a suit could move forward and, if it could, what kind of a precedent that could set.

  7. TCC:

    Of course, if there was an arrangement between CQ and OJ’s ahead of time, particularly in writing, that would change things significantly. I hope for CQ’s sake that this is the case.

  8. Damion Reinhardt:

    tuxedocartman – The KS joint disclaims any connection https://twitter.com/OklahomaJoesBBQ/status/321454373433638912

  9. Human Excommunication: Stolen Labor and BBQ | Reasonable Conversation:

    [...] Well, the kids spend 2-3 weeks handing out flyers for this place, they go there, set up their table, eat dinner, and then after they have all eaten and paid, and pulled aside by the owner to be told that he found out that they are a camp run by humanists, and donating would be against his “Christian philosophy”, so he’s closing down the fundraiser aspect of things. [...]

  10. aluchko:

    Yeah I’m not sure this should be illegal, they’re obliged to provide service to anyone, but this wasn’t service. A restaurant letting a group set up a table to do promotions (and certainly get 10% of proceeds for the night if that was part of the deal) is endorsing that group. You should certainly be allowed to decide whom you endorse (1st amendment).

    Of course if there’s any sort of broken contract that might be a different matter (and the restaurant should cover the cost of the promotions as a matter of good manners).

  11. tuxedocartman:

    Thank you, Damion!

  12. DrVanNostrand:

    The major problem I see is that they agreed to do the event and then shut it down shortly after it started when they realized that the people they were helping were “evil atheists”. They had not problem with the organization’s mission up until that point. Regardless of the legality, it was completely unethical to kick them out in the middle of the event.

  13. mobius:

    While illegal, it is almost certainly very popular in Oklahoma.

  14. Ed Brayton:

    The fundraiser is as much a public accommodation as eating at the restaurant is. If they offer fundraisers to non-profit organizations, they can’t discriminate on the basis of religion.

  15. timberwoof:

    The organizers were up-front about Camp Quest from the start. The restaurant organizers went along with it until it was too late for the organizers to make alternate plans. The impression I get is that the timing was deliberate: screw them over by appearing to be kind and accepting and then, at the last moment, pull the rug out from under them.

    “They were put on the calendar” sounds like a contract to me.

    Congratulations, Okahoma Joe’s. You’ve just taught a bunch of kids a very important lesson about Christian kindness.

  16. Nemo:

    Am I misreading this, or does “if such discrimination or segregation is or purports to be required by any law,” etc. not limit the scope of the act? It seems to be saying that no discriminatory laws may be enforced, but leaves establishments free to set their own policies. Perhaps that’s covered elsewhere?

  17. DrVanNostrand:

    @Ed
    How does the law apply to viewpoint discrimination that may be indirectly related to religious beliefs? For example, could the restaurant decline to host the fundraiser because they don’t agree with “conventional science”? Could an atheist owner decline to do one for ID “science”? Could a gay owner decline to host one for some kind of nonprofit, voluntary, conversion therapy get together? (Providing, of course, that in all cases the groups have the appropriate legal non-profit status)

  18. anubisprime:

    Apart from the breach of agreement itself they might also be liable for the sign they put up…it is clearly a false and demonstrably misleading claim…

    We will provide service to anyone

    When quite obviously they don’t!

    False advertising is a dangerous game to play, this has just sealed their fate because the text also admits their culpability and what they did based on ‘belief’.

    Open shut case… they are BBQ’ d

  19. matty1:

    it’s not terribly difficult to parse the “We will provide service to anyone” they mean that they won’t honour arrangements with groups they don’t like but will still let them pay for a meal, presumably as long as they keep quiet during it.

  20. Freedonian:

    Ed-

    Why did you cite Section 202 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act?

    I thought I had missed something, but that section just basically allows anyone to bypass any state or local Jim Crow laws by making such laws unenforceable. I don’t see how that applies to this Camp Quest incident.

    Just wondering

  21. ambulocetacean:

    Looks like they have taken down their Facebook page (though not their disused Twitter account). Must remember to pay their Facebook a visit when they put it back up.

  22. anubisprime:

    ambulocetacean @ 19

    Looks like they have taken down their Facebook page

    Cowards and dumb with it then?

    i swear they do it on purpose to get slammed dunked then declare the ‘we poor persecuted xtians fighting the good fight!’ refrain!

    They do so like martyrdom for a fairy tale do they not?

  23. Freeman:

    OK Joe’s KC isn’t bad, for gas station food, if you’ve got the time to wait in their lunch line. Fortunately there are many more BBQ joints to choose from in KC.

  24. ambulocetacean:

    Freeman, this is not the Oklahoma Joe’s in KC. It’s one of the ones in Tulsa/Broken Arrow. The owner of those has nothing to do with the KC one.

    Anubisprime, They sure do seem to like playing the martyr game. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them do it deliberately. I’m sure that in most places it would win them more business than it would lose them.

  25. Gretchen:

    Dammit.

    I don’t want private businesses to have to hold fund-raisers or other events for groups they don’t agree with in order to hold fund-raisers at all. I want them to be able to pick any group they choose, whatever they think is a good cause, as they see fit.

    I just want them to fucking stop agreeing to hold them and then reneging.

  26. Childermass:

    Ed @ 12:

    The fundraiser is as much a public accommodation as eating at the restaurant is. If they offer fundraisers to non-profit organizations, they can’t discriminate on the basis of religion.

    I very much doubt that any court in the nation let alone in Oklahoma is going to agree. Donations are simply not an accommodation. If Camp Quest had rented space they would have a case. Everyone has the right to be a customer of a restaurant regardless of their beliefs. No one has the right to get an endorsement or donation. Furthermore unless someone has signed on the dotted line, promised donations can be withdrawn at any time. The Simpsons notwithstanding, there is no such thing as pledge enforcement.

    That being said, the restaurant’s management must be made of dumbasses. Never agree to a donation without first looking into the group.

  27. gogogone:

    I don’t think it was a well thought out plot to shut them down shortly after the event started in order to maxize the evil athiest’s inconvenience. Rather, I think it more likely that one or two gobsmacking customers complained when the saw the table. I really hope they get legally hammered because, unfortunately, any publicity in that neck of the woods will help them more than hurt them.

  28. Artor:

    In another thread on this subject, someone who participated in the fundraiser said it had gone on for an hour, and the restaurant took money from people who thought they were donating to Camp Quest, before cancelling the event. So not only did the manager break his word, but he also stole money that was intended to go to the camp.
    His claim that they didn’t explain their beliefs to him reveals that he is too ignorant to understand what “secular humanist,” means, and didn’t figure it out until someone explained to him that it’s another way of saying, “evil atheist devil-worshipper.”

  29. Tsu Dho Nimh:

    http://okjoes.com/ok-joes-bbq-at-cains-ballroom/#brunch

    Any establishment selling tickets to a $20 “Gospel Brunch” is unlikely to want rational thinkers on its premises.

    What I wonder – is this a chain? The Kansas City restaurant of the same name seems to have the same logo.

  30. mjmiller:

    If I walked in solely intending to support the CQ efforts and get some BBQ as a bonus, plopped down my $40, then found out the owner kept my intended donation, do I have any recourse as a defrauded consumer? This would seem to me to something akin to false advertising. Admittedly it would make more sense to just turn the $40 over to CQ and skip the food.
    I agree with gogogone that the decision to boot the CQ group probably arose from customer complaints about them evil atheists.

  31. freemage:

    I really think this is just a breach of contract case (though a fairly open-and-shut one). While there’s now reports the restaurant returned 10% of complaining customers’ checks to do with as they pleased, there’s still the fact that the other 90% of the check was a direct result of the advertising the group had done on the restaurant’s behalf. So yeah, just get them fried for breach of contract, forcing them to either settle or let their hypocrisy and duplicity be on display in open court.

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