News

Missouri ice cream shop owner feels the heat after briefly barring atheists

ANDY Drennen, 28, got a double scoop of the humps when he realised that a convention in his hometown of Springfield, Missouri, was, in fact, a gathering of non-believers.

He was so pissed off over the Skepticon event – organised by the local chapter of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – that he taped a notice to the window of his ice cream emporium, Gelato Mio, which stated:

Skepticon is NOT welcomed to my Christian Business.

But he quickly cooled down and removed it, saying:

Even small business owners make mistakes, and I sincerely apologized to those whom I offended.

But, according to this report, its removal came a tad too late. Someone snapped a pic of the notice, and within hours it had gone viral on the internet.

Much to Drennen’s surprise, emails and comments flooded in from as far as South Africa and Switzerland the next day, and he was forced to disable the store’s Facebook page.

Emily Dietle, a Houston, Texas-based blogger who was following the weekend convention, commented:

I think his apology is a great first step. Still, the act itself is unacceptable. The message behind the sign is unacceptable. I feel it’s our moral obligation as citizens to speak up whenever we see bigotry toward any minority group or any group.

And according to this report, Ryan Culbertson-Faegre, captain of the local chapter of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, said the act was disturbing. What’s more:

It’s flagrantly illegal. It’s flagrantly un-American.

He added the act temporarily violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination based on race, religion and national origin. He expects no legal action against Gelato Mio, especially as Drennan had publicly apologised.

As humanists, we have to forgive other people for their trespassing. I personally accept the apology. Forgiveness is very important to humanism.

Drennen said he mistakenly assumed Skepticon had something to do with UFOs, and that he had welcomed the convention by offering attendees a 10 percent discount. He said he served about 250 convention-goers on Saturday before venturing out when business slowed to find out more about it. He “was surprised and offended” when he heard disrespectful comments about Christianity.

There was this guy who made very vulgar comments about my faith. He was just really disrespectful. Very, very disrespectful toward my Christian views.

Do you think there’s any chance that we’ll now get an apology from Victoria Childress, the Christian cake shop owner who refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple?

36 Responses to “Missouri ice cream shop owner feels the heat after briefly barring atheists”

  1. AngieRS says:

    I think he needs to chill out…

  2. Harry says:

    PZ Myers has rejected the apology. Personally I think that once Drennan had put the poster up it dawned on him he’d put a “No Blacks” equivalent sign in his window and he went Oh Shit and pulled it down because he wouldn’t want to do that.

  3. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    @Harry, JT Eberhard has also rejected the apology.

    So he was offended that people were disrespectful towards his religion, tough shit mate, your religion is disrespectful towards LGBT, towards women, towards other religions, towards atheists. Need I go on?

    Did he apologise because he was wrong and felt bad or did he apologise because he was caught out and was losing business?

  4. Harry says:

    I would say that he apologised because his pride wouldn’t let him believe he was really a **** and an apology was the only way to avoid this conclusion. I also happen to believe that most human decency is based on the same thing, not wanting to think of yourself as a ****, so I’d accept he did it out of the most common form of human decency.

    (Insert your preferred four letter insult)

  5. Broga says:

    Drennen seems like a typical christian hypocrite. If he thought the conference was about UFO’s why did he mention his “christian business.” He is also a typical christian coward. When they are in a mob of other christians with non believers as a small and defenceless minority they will be take their bigotry to the limit. When they discover atheists are no longer a small and weak group then Drennen and co back away.

    His notice reeks of christian smugness and he expected to be a local hero as a result. He has now learned the rules of the game have changed.

  6. Brian Jordan says:

    Will we now get an apology from the pope, who has refused… oh, all sorts of people all sorts of things. Many of which are not his to refuse, like condoms.

  7. Brian Jordan says:

    …and bang on cue, I now see:
    “Ratzinger tells Africans – never use condoms to protect against AIDS”
    NSS Newsline today.

  8. The Woggler says:

    Brian – I saw it too. My thought was just what a dangerous individual his hollowness is. In my book he’s up there with Ahmadinejad and Jomg-Il.

  9. David Anderson says:

    Yeah, apology rejected. 10 mins. of anger reinforced by a lifetime of bigotry.

  10. AgentCormac says:

    There was this guy who made very vulgar comments about my faith. He was just really disrespectful. Very, very disrespectful toward my Christian views.

    Oh, and you weren’t being disrespectful to atheists’ views?

  11. Har Davids says:

    Illegal, un-American? How about plain old stupidity! I’m sure there are other people who come to Gelato Mio whose opinions regarding life in general he doesn’t share, or does he have a very strict door-policy? Not good for business, though it might save his soul, if he does have any.

  12. […] Missouri ice cream shop owner feels the heat after briefly barring atheists […]

  13. Emily says:

    Many thanks for including the interviews gathered from the original Springfield Newsleader article.

    When the AP picked it up, the individual who re-hashed it eliminated my interview and twisted it into a “poor young man and business bashed on by angry atheists” and that is simply not the case.

    We are responding to blatant bigotry and creating a dialogue about this and other issues of discrimination.

    -Emilyhasbooks

  14. Jeff Bergey says:

    I personally get offended that you guys group all Christians anti everything, my god tells me I am no better than the next person, so I never judge, we might be a minority but we love everyone!!!

  15. Sean Russell says:

    His sign is so very christian.

  16. Kristine says:

    As humanists, we have to forgive other people for their trespassing. I personally accept the apology. Forgiveness is very important to humanism. WTF? Is this a church? As an atheist, I don’t have to forgive people for shit.

    Drennen said he mistakenly assumed Skepticon had something to do with UFOs

    A likely story!

  17. David Anderson says:

    Jeff Bergey: That’s nice for you. Perhaps you can use some of that all-encompassing love to convince that piece of shit in the Vatican to turn over all the evidence of the child rape and abuse his church is guilty of, including the perpetrators. Perhaps, with your love, you can convince him to stop killing people in Africa. Perhaps, with your love, you can convince those people in Afganistan that forcing a young woman to marry her rapist or face 12 years in gaol is wrong. Perhaps, with your love, you can convince all those politicians and hate groups that denying people their human rights because they are of a different sexual persuasion is wrong. Good luck with that. Me, I have no difficulty in judging and hating certain people.

  18. Broga says:

    @David Anderson: That is a superb response to Jeff Bergey.

  19. Harry says:

    Drennen said he originally thought Skepticon was about not believing in things like UFOs. This is correct, in fact, he just missed that it includes more myths than just UFOs. Then he went there, got shocked, left and did something stupid.

    If he’s treated reasonably then I think he is more likely to question why his religion led him to do something so stupid and offensive, then there is a chance he will make the leap and realise that his religion *is* stupid and offensive. I would rather people aim for that possibility rather than indulging their rage. After all, wouldn’t he make a great Skepticon speaker in 10 years or so?

  20. Vin of Milton WA says:

    As long as our “differences” define our religious borders, we will all denigrate the other’s religion when defining our differences. It is better to accept that each of us has the right to our own religious opinions and that we should seek out what unites us….our humanity, be it derived from religious tomes or from human empathy.

    Because he has publically apologized to those he wronged, he should be forgiven. That’s the human thing to do. To deny his apology is to say that mistakes are not allowed…even your own. When I make mistakes I hope I am as responsible as this Christian and that I own up to my mistakes. PZ…if you’re listening….do the right thing here bud. You’re prone to mistakes of your own, like your refusal of his apology. I can’t forgive you if you won’t own up to that mistake.

  21. Stonyground says:

    I think that the difference between the way that religious people and atheists respond to challenges to their views is significant. Many religious folk don’t seem to be able to cope with criticism of their beliefs and I suspect that this is because these beliefs cannot be rationally defended. Atheists tend to be well informed both on religious and scientific matters and can easily mount a robust defence of their beliefs. In my experience the most challenging part is remaining calm and civil while refuting the same specious argument for the thousandth time. Speaking for myself, if I had a belief that could not be rationally supported I would change my mind and ditch it. I find it a little difficult to understand why religious folk don’t do this and think that throwing a hissy fit is a more appropriate response.

    @Vin of Milton WA
    I suspect that PZ Meyers is less forgiving because he is dealing with prejudice against atheists on a daily basis.
    If you want to get in touch with him his blog is here:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/

  22. David Anderson says:

    Ah Vin, you are right, we are all entitled to our own opinions. Show me though where our humanity and human empaphy comes in when people, because of their opinions, seek to control the lives of people that don’t agree. Do you think that those people who seek to deny women of the right of dominion over their own bodies because of some invented religious belief deserve respect? Fuck that.

    The ice-cream guy apologized because he was caught out. It was not a mistake. His actions came from his beliefs. Should he want to learn what his mistake was, I would be most happy to teach him

  23. Don says:

    Kristine

    Yes, that struck me, too. I don’t take offence easily, you have to really work at it to earn my ire. But once earned, don’t expect forgiveness.

  24. barriejohn says:

    As humanists, we have to forgive other people for their trespassing. I personally accept the apology. Forgiveness is very important to humanism.

    I took that as irony myself!

  25. JohnMWhite says:

    I think Vin has the right idea here. The guy lashed out because his Deeply Held Beliefs ™ were challenged and he could not take it. He then thought better of it and apologised. Whether he thought better of it because he genuinely realised it is unacceptable to bar people from his store because of their beliefs or because he realised he faced financial and possibly civil ramifications, we can never be sure. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but even if it was purely self-interest, I think the incident is done and dusted and bloggers pontificating about how they will not accept his apology is going to do nothing positive.

    However, I certainly understand why the issue draws comment and criticism and why it needs to be robustly addressed and demonstrated to not be acceptable. Yet again religion has turned an average business owner into an irrational, self-defeating bigot. He has cut his nose off to spite his face and now must live with consequences that never would have been a problem if he had not been steeped in traditions that compelled him to act out of anger towards people who dare believe differently. This individual is not the enemy, but the institutionalisation that has caused him to act this way certainly is. Society will no longer accept religious belief as a catalyst for mistreating others. The sooner religious bodies and communities realise that and stop cultivating a culture that encourages such behaviour, the sooner these kind of conflicts will stop and we can actually get along.

  26. David Anderson says:

    Here we go then. I’m an atheist and I own an ice-cream shop. I put up a sign that says, “No religious people allowed, this is an atheist business”. Ten minutes later I take it down and say, “I’m sorry, it was wrong.” Forgiveness coming from all religious groups? Not on your fucking life.

  27. JohnMWhite says:

    Obviously that is most likely to be their reaction, but tit for tat childishness is unbecoming of atheism and not going to be constructive. Honestly, I would have thought people around here would have a better attitude than “well they did it first!”

  28. AgentCormac says:

    @ Jeff Bergey

    Since when have christians been a minority in this country (or the US, if that’s where your are from)? And if christians truly love everyone, why do your fellow believers insist on demonstrating the absolute opposite? It seems to me that christians constantly react to any form of questioning with outright aggression, or wobbly bottom lips, or heart-wrenching tales of discrimination, or, of course, law suits. So please, don’t talk to us about getting offended.

    While you personally may not get so ‘offended’ as to try and stop others having a different point of view, there are certainly many xtians who are only too happy to censure and indeed censor anybody who has the temerity to dismiss your fairy stories for what they really are.

    What Drennen did by putting that sign in his window is no less offensive than the Nazis scrawling ‘Juden’ on the windows of businesses they wanted their own faithful to vilify. And no amount of hindsight apologising makes it all right.

  29. JohnMWhite says:

    @ AgentCormac – I think he meant that Christians who do not use their faith as an excuse for hatred and bigotry and mistreatment of Others are the minority.

    Obviously we all know that not every Christian acts like this, but I think vilifying individuals is less likely to yield any progress than pointing out time and again that this is what religious faith, as a whole, frequently does to people. Fostering hatred and intolerance for the outsider or the dissenter is exactly what religion thrives on. There are nice, tolerant, pleasant Christians, Muslims, Hindus and whoever else out there, but most of the people who act like Andy Drennan are probably pleasant and decent people 99% of the time. The trouble comes when religious faith provides either the opportunity or the obligation to harm others.

    In short – for good people to do evil things requires religion. We would probably be better continually demonstrating *that* rather than feeding persecution complexes by taking no prisoners and refusing to accept apologies from individuals who commit the sin of indulging in their deeply rooted prejudices.

  30. AgentCormac says:

    @ JohnMWhite

    I’ll happily admit that I’ve had two glasses of a rather nice Rioja this evening, and that right now you could say my senses aren’t exactly firing on every single cylinder. However, doesn’t your statement that Christians who do not use their faith as an excuse for hatred and bigotry and mistreatment of Others are the minorityequate to ‘ Christians who do use their faith as an excuse for hatred and bigotry and mistreatment of Others are not the minority’. In other words, they are the majority?

    If so, I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    I also agree that There are nice, tolerant, pleasant Christians, Muslims, Hindus and whoever else out there, but most of the people who act like Andy Drennan are probably pleasant and decent people 99% of the time.Trouble is, in my experience when push comes to shove 99% of religious people will happily act like Andy Drennan if they feel like their faith is being attacked. That’s how they have been programmed. That’s how they have been indoctrinated as children. That’s what’s so fucked up with religion. It brainwashes people into defending lies. Into claiming black is white, despite all the evidence. And I can’t forgive the people who inflict that on others.

    So I don’t actually hate Andy Drennan personally for what he’s done. It isn’t his fault. The bastards I hate are those who willingly, wilfully and knowingly sold him the lie. But I can still despise Drennen for not questioning the nonsense that he, like the Nazis, has taken on face value.

  31. Harry says:

    Whatever happens, I hope he just spends some time contemplating why his strongly held beliefs led him to this hateful act. He may become a better person for it.

  32. JohnMWhite says:

    @AgentCormac – that seems a fair assessment of things.

    @Harry – agreed. Being expected to be hateful was part of my deconversion from Catholicism. I just never had it in me. While all around me were railing against the terrible gays and their terrible lifestyle and their agenda to destroy the family by having their own, I had to keep coming up with rationalisations in my head, basically writing fan fiction to ret-con the loving god I believed in to the obvious hatred his one true faith fostered. Eventually for this, among other reasons, the pressure grew too great and the damn broke. Maybe this Andy Drennan will have a similar opportunity.

  33. jay says:

    I’m of the attitude that too much is being made of this (seems a lot of folks over at Jerry Coynes’s site agree). It was stupid. He backed down.

    Fine. That’s the end of it. I don’t care if it was legal issues, or financial issues, or change of heart.. we won. I see no point to dragging it out or blaming him for the Pope’s bad behavior or any other religionist’s bad behavior.

    Nothing to see here.

  34. Becca says:

    Didn’t take long for Godwin’s Law!

    That said, I hope this guy learned a little lesson. It would be really funny if every atheist in the country bought an ice cream at his shop. Think about it: he’d have to deal with the fact that atheists made his shop a success! Oh, the psychological and philosophical effect that would have!