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Supporting Civil Rights for Atheists and the Separation of Church and State
Victory for the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason
On March 25th, 2012 at the American Atheists’ Convention in Washington, DC, I was approached by Alix Jules from the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason. The DFW-CoR had a signed contract with Screenvision, who does the on-screen advertising for The Movie Tavern, to run an image of their new billboard before movies. At the last minute The Movie Tavern’s PR people decided not to allow the advertisement. Alix was justifiably upset at the blatant discrimination.
American Atheists’ new policy is “zero tolerance of bigotry against atheists.” When I advised the Board of Directors and David Silverman of what happened, the response was immediate: American Atheists will do everything it can to get The Movie Tavern to run the ad as promised in the signed contract, including possible litigation.
Mary Lester of MPL Public Relations is handling the PR for The Movie Tavern and she said, “We have never in the history of Movie Tavern run an ad of a religious nature. And we never will. This ad never ran and it never will run.”
Well, at least Mrs. Lester did not hedge and haw about this and went right to the point.
But there is a problem with Mrs. Lester’s statements. As soon as her comments hit the news, a lot of people started reporting that they had seen advertisements for churches at The Movie Tavern. Oops!
Unfortunately, DFW-CoR was unable to prove that The Movie Tavern had shown ads for churches in the past. And The Movie Tavern continues to stick to its guns and refuse to run the advertisement. Without the evidence to prove that The Movie Tavern showed religious ads, litigation would be difficult to pursue. While there are quite a few individuals who stated they have seen religious ads at the theater, anecdotal evidence is not enough for litigation. It should be noted that if The Movie Tavern does indeed maintain consistency in not showing any ads that have a religious message, then there is no issue at all.
The other movie theater that the DFW-CoR was working with was Angelika, who had initially refused to play the original ad and asked that the DFW-CoR only put a graphic with the photo and their web page and not the words on the advertisement. DFW-CoR refused to pay for the advertisement that stripped down, so several days later Angelika called and approved the full advertisement as submitted. The advertisement will run for six months before every movie.
The DFW-CoR and American Atheists expressed their concerns with the parties involved and put the heat on. That Angelika changed its mind and allowed the full ad is a great victory for the DFW-CoR and against bigotry. Unfortunately, the anecdotal evidence of those who say they have seen religious ads at The Movie Tavern is not enough for litigation. Hard evidence is needed: a photo of an ad running in the theater, a copy of a contract signed with a church, etc.
Congratulations to the DFW-CoR for a “bloodless victory” in the fight against bigotry and discrimination and all the free advertising they received through news coverage. We should extend congratulations to The Movie Tavern for all the free advertising they received for being bigots.
EDIT: Edited 4/5 @ 1322 by Blair Scott to clarify the confusion between The Movie Tavern and Angelika, two separate movie theaters.