I’m wrapping up my weekend work here at Skepticon in Missouri. It was a really great time. Many great speakers were heard and great times were had by many. There were a reported 1,100 attendees at this year’s event which was inspiring to me.
However, not everyone was pleased with our event.
Two separate people yelled at me and said my art was “wrong” and the theater that held the event refused to put the word Skepticon on the marquee. Most notably, an Italian ice cream shop just one block away from the event went so far as to refuse to serve us. This photo
was taken by via Skepticon attendee @degreer75 at Gelato Mio:
Two thoughts on this. One, this is some exclusionary, bigoted bullshit. Two, maybe the religious message would have been better received if they brought us ice cream instead of taking it away.
On an up note, all the skeptics and atheists at the conference that I saw who interacted with the angry religious folks did so with grace and dignity. And many other local businesses offered us discounts and opened early or worked late to accommodate us. I’m pretty sure the skeptics drained almost all the kegs at the local gastro pub so having us around was probably good for local business.
EDIT: Just before going live with this story the owner of Gelato Mio wrote an apology. It can be found here at Gelato Mio.
I’m not sure if the apology was a result of his google review rating dropping to just 1 star after the internet reaction to the sign being posted or because he actually came to his senses. Either way the apology is a step in the right direction.
EDIT 11/21/11 9:36pm The owner of the Gelato store has issued a more detailed apology on reddit. Here it is:
To the World:
Hello, my name is Andy and I’m the owner of Gelato Mio, a gelato shop located in Springfield, Missouri. There has been quite a lot of buzz and discussion concerning a picture of the sign I briefly posted in my front window Saturday evening. I’d like to take this opportunity to tell my story and offer a heartfelt apology to your community. I messed up, plain and simple. This is NOT an excuse, but how it happened from my perspective.
I decided to welcome the convention downtown by offering the attendees 10% off their purchases at my store. A lot of the group from the convention were stopping by, being very polite and enjoying my Gelato. Saturday night started out as a great night. Once the store slowed down, I decided to walk down the street to learn more about the convention, fully thinking it was something involving UFOs (“skeptics”). What I saw instead was a man conducting a mock sermon, reading the bible and cursing it. Instead of saying “Amen”, the phrase was “god damn”. Being a Christian, and expecting flying saucers, I was not only totally surprised but totally offended. I took it very personally and quickly decided in the heat of the moment that I had to take matters into my own hands and let people know how I felt at that moment in time.
So, I went quickly back to my business, grabbed the first piece of paper I could find, wrote the note and taped it in my front window. This was an impulsive response, which I fully acknowledge was completely wrong and unacceptable. The sign was posted for about 10 minutes or so before I calmed down, came to my senses, and took it down. For what it’s worth, nobody was turned away. I strongly believe that everybody is entitled to their beliefs. I’m not apologizing for my beliefs, but rather for my inexcusable actions. I was wrong.
Guys, I really don’t know what else I can do to express my apologies. I’ve received dozens of calls and hundreds of emails since the incident, and have done my best to reply to each and every one and express my regret for what happened. For the thousands of you whom I’ve offended, I sincerely apologize. I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. This is me as a human being sincerely apologizing for my actions.
To those of you who accept my apology, Thank You; it means a lot. To those of you who haven’t, I hope you will. I’m just a 28 year old small business owner who made a big mistake. I hope you see that I have not made any excuses, I’ve owned up to what I did, and I apologize.
For what it’s worth, an Atheist reached out to me to help me work through all of this and contact your community directly. I graciously accepted his offer.
I will give everyone who comes to my store this week 10% off as a token of my apology. Really, what’s more universal than ice cream?
Thanks, Andy. I for one really appreciate the apology and I wish you would have wandered in during one of the science talks. Maybe next year.