Several weeks ago, two area theaters refused to show an ad for atheism, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason's new campaign, "Our Families Are Great Without Religion." Now the American Humanist Association, which supports DFWCoR's parent organization, the United Coalition of Reason, has gotten involved, and they've brought along some lawyers.
To review: The Arlington location of Movie Tavern refused to show the ad and sent the atheists back their money as soon as they realized what it was. The Plano Angelika waded in and apparently agreed to the ad with full knowledge that it was godless and whatnot. But they abruptly yanked that agreement off the table, reportedly after complaints over a story published here.
We had half-expected a lawsuit over this one, but from a different direction: as Dave Silverman, president of the American Atheists, recently made clear to us, and he's pretty pissed about the whole thing too. He said at the time that the American Atheists were "looking into" whether the Plano Angelika had violated any equal protection or anti-discrimination laws.
The American Humanists think so. Lawyer Bill Burgess has sent a letter to the Angelika brass, warning them that their refusal is "a violation of federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of religious views by a business open to the public."
Burgess also tells the Angelika that it is "irrelevant" whether they refused to do business with DFWCoR because of a personal bias against atheism or whether it was a practical decision to avoid controversy; both, he says, are just as illegal. The lawyer also says that he's been informed that the theater has previously shown religious advertising.
Burgess says that the theater can avoid potential litigation by reversing their decision and allowing DFWCor to show their ad; he's given them a week to reply. The full letter is below.