So a really cool skeptic conference, called Skepticon, was held this weekend in Springfield, Missouri. It seems like an awesome event for those lucky enough to be able to attend, which would be about 1100 people (lucky bastards)! Now, Springfield is a smallish city, with just over 150,000 people, so you’d think local business owners would be psyched about 1100 more people to sell stuff to. And for the most part they probably were. Except for the owner of a local gelato shop called Gelato Mio. When the owner of this shop heard about Skepticon, he did what any normal business owner would do: he put up a sign telling them that they’re not welcome (seen above, from here).
Skepticon is NOT welcomed to my Christian business
This sign didn’t stay up for too long, but just long enough for the attendees of Skepticon to know where not to go for gelato. And long enough for them to take pictures, which a few later blogged about. So, after everyone found out about this, the Yelp and Urbanspoon ratings plummeted, which caused the owner of Gelato Mio to post an apology to their website, which read:
RE Letter in the Window:
To the Public: I sincerely apologize for the posting of the note in the window. It was an impulse reaction to an event that I witnessed and it was only up for a few minutes before I came to my senses and realized it shouldn’t have been up at all.
So you know, nobody was turned away and everyone was given the same high level of service they have come to expect. Out of the hundreds of event attendees that I served on Friday and Saturday, all of them were extremely polite and enjoyed their time in my restaurant. The event that greatly offended me was conducted by one man and I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did.
Even small business owners make mistakes, and I sincerely apologize to those whom I offended.
All the Best,
This “apology” raised a few questions (what event did he witness that freaked him out so much?) and generally didn’t satisfy many people (including me). While the downrating was happening on Yelp and Urbanspoon, many negative comments were being posted to their facebook page. But I guess at some point, whoever was in charge of the facebook page decided that s/he’d had enough. All of the negative comments were deleted a little after 10 pm last night (the 20th), leaving only positive comments (some of which made no sense anymore because they were in response to deleted comments). Well, people didn’t look too kindly upon that (including me) and some decided to post again, this time criticizing this silencing technique. I guess this time it was just too much, because at about midnight, the facebook page was taken down entirely.
This whole story is pathetic and sad, but not too surprising to me. I see and hear about stuff like this a little too often. What surprised me about this is how some fellow atheist reacted to this story. After the apology was issued, many (on the facebook page and in this comment thread) seemed to think that everyone should just shut up about this and forgive and forget. WTF? No! Why should I forget about something like this? Just because someone said “sorry”? That doesn’t make what they did ok. Especially when the apology isn’t sincere, like it clearly wasn’t in this case. Some people also brought up that this could make atheists look bad. This isn’t a PR thing! This is about someone who really thought it was ok (even for just a moment) to say something like this. It’s not like shutting up will convince everyone in the country that atheists aren’t so bad after all. Actually, being more vocal is probably better, which is why a lot of atheist groups have started campaigns to that effect (like the Out Campaign).
I know that I won’t shut up just because someone might think poorly of me or my group, and I hope the same is true for others. I also hope that things like this will happen less often as time goes on and more people speak out against it when it does happen.
Update: The owner of this shop apologized again and explained the “event” that bothered him so much.