You are on page 1of 2

April 24, 2012 Manager Angelika Film Center 7205 Bishop Rd., Suite E6 Plano, Texas 75024 cc: angelika.plano@readingrdi.

com Re: Angelika Film Center’s Illegal Refusal to Accept Atheist Advertising from the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason

To Whom it May Concern: This letter is in response to the decision of the Angelika Film Center (the “Theater”) to refuse to allow the Dallas Fort-Worth Coalition of Reason (the “Coalition” or “DFWCOR”) to contract with the Theater to lease pre-show advertising1 time and space on the Theater’s movie screens. As will be further explained below, this refusal is a violation of the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of religious views by a business open to the public, such as yours. The Appignani Humanist Legal Center is a project of the American Humanist Association (“AHA”), a national nonprofit organization with over 10,000 members and 20,000 supporters across the country, including in Texas. In addition to defending the separation of church and state, the legal center’s mission includes protecting the civil liberties and legal rights to equality of humanists and other atheists. The legal center represents the AHA and the United Coalition of Reason. DFWCOR is a local affiliate of the United Coalition of Reason. As you know, the Theater solicits the public to purchase advertising on its screens to run before its films.2 In the first week of April 2012, the Theater agreed to contract with the Coalition to run its advertisement promoting a positive view of atheist families. The Theater, upon receiving anti-atheist complaints from members of the public following media coverage of this agreement, canceled the contract. I have been informed that the Theater has previously contracted with Christian advertisers to display religious pre-show advertising. This pattern of facts clearly

1 2

The advertisement included the text “What make our families beyond belief? Find out at DFWCOR.org.” Under the heading “ADVERTISE WITH US,” the Theater’s website solicits advertisers with the following text: “The Angelika Film Centers, located in New York City and in Texas, [including in] Plano, Texas. . . . The Angelika offers several ways, through our theaters and our websites, to reach our sophisticated clientele: Pre-Show On Screen Advertising . . .”

1

indicates that the Theater refused to do business with the Coalition because of bias against its religious views. Title II of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the “Act”) prohibits a business establishment such as the Theater from discriminating on the basis of religious views (such as atheism).3 Movie theaters are expressly listed among the sorts of businesses that are “places of public accommodation” subject to the Act. As a place of public accommodation, the Theater cannot lawfully refuse to do business with the Coalition on this discriminatory basis. Please note that under the Act it is irrelevant whether your decision to refuse to do business with the Coalition was based on personal or organization animus to the atheist views of the Coalition and its proposed advertising or whether it was purely a business decision intended to avoid controversy. Courts rulings have made clear that there is no distinction under the Act between discrimination based upon personal animosity and that claimed to be purely economic (i.e. to avoid provoking the ire of customers who instead may themselves be biased against atheists); both are illegal. See e.g. United States by Katzenbach v. Gulf-State Theatres, Inc., 256 F. Supp. 549, 553 (1966, N.D. Miss.). Under the Act, the Coalition may bring suit to obtain an injunction to require you to stop discriminating against it and to contract with it for the lease of advertising space. If you would like to avoid any potential litigation related to this matter, please contact me immediately and indicate that you will reverse your illegal decision and lease pre-show advertising space on the screens in your theater to the Coalition on the same terms as offered to religious advertisers, as the Act requires. If I do not hear from you or your attorney within one week, either by email to bburgess@americanhumanist.org or by phone at (202) 238-9088, legal action may be taken with further notice to you. I believe this matter can be resolved amicably and without the need for legal proceedings and hope to hear likewise from you in your response. Sincerely, /s/ William J. Burgess William J. Burgess, Esq. Appignani Humanist Legal Center American Humanist Association

3

42 U.S.C. §2000a(a) provides that “[a]ll persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation . . . without discrimination . . . on the ground of . . . religion.” 42 U.S.C. §2000a(b) defines “place of public accommodation” to include “any motion picture house, theater . . . or other place of exhibition or entertainment.”

2