A regional freethinkers group has received an apology for discriminatory denial of services during a recent protest at a religious theme park.
On June 30, Five Star Septic and Portable Toilet Rentals agreed to send portable toilets to a July 7 demonstration against the Ark Encounter park put on by the Tri-State Freethinkers, a group made up of nonbelievers from Kentucky, southern Ohio and southern Indiana, the area the firm serves. But on that morning, when the company's office called Tri-State Freethinkers to get directions to the site, it asked the organization representative whether the portable toilets were for the protest. Upon learning that they were, the office denied service, indicating that this was partially because it did not want its name associated with the atheists' protest.
It is unlawful for legitimate businesses to discriminate on the basis of religion, the Freedom From Religion Foundation contended in a formal letter of complaint. In addition, Tri-State Freethinkers relied on the promise of Five Star Septic to deliver a service, and it reneged on that promise because of the protesters' reasonable message.
With such short notice, Tri-State Freethinkers had to hastily organize a shuttle caravan to a nearby gas station for the nearly 200 attendees needing to use toilets. This entailed a major time expense for volunteer organizers and individuals needing the ride, as well as financial outlay for gas and mileage. For some individuals, the inconvenience caused by the breach of contract meant missing parts of the protest.
FFRF's complaint was taken seriously. Arwood Waste & Demolition, with which Five Star Septic has been a subcontractor, said sorry to Tri-State Freethinkers and made a pledge that the inappropriate behavior will not recur.
"Sir, I do apologize for services having been refused to your organization by our affiliate company (Five Star Septic)," Michael Nancarrow, Arwood's associate director of communications, emailed Jim Helton, the president of Tri-State Freethinkers. "I want you to know that this does not in any way reflect the values of Arwood Waste and, as such, certain measures will be taken to ensure that this kind of thing does not happen again. There will be no charges made to the MasterCard provided to Arwood Waste."
Helton was also assured by another company official that Arwood would not be using Five Star Septic as a subcontractor in the future.
FFRF is grateful for Arwood's response.
"The denial of such a service is a serious matter, as I can personally attest to," says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, who was on hand at the all-day July 7 protest at a hot time of the year. "We're glad that Arwood realized our rights were violated and quickly took decisive steps to redress the situation."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with almost 24,000 nonreligious members across the country, including members in Kentucky who were present at the protest.