January 28, 2013 – The YMCA Flowertown Festival recently refused to allow a local humanist group (Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, “SHL”) a booth at its annual event in Summerville, SC. The Festival, which will be held in April, is open to the general public and expects to attract over 200,000 visitors this year.
The Festival’s policy permits all types of community groups, including non-profits and civic organizations, to apply for a booth, so long as the group has “inclusive membership” and supports “community building.” Although SHL meets both of these requirements, the YMCA Festival Coordinator told the SHL president not to apply, stating, “We are a Christian organization.”
The Festival’s refusal to do business with an atheist organization amounts to unlawful discrimination on the basis of religion in violation of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as South Carolina’s public accommodations statute.
The Legal Center demanded that the Festival allow SHL to participate in order to avoid litigation as well as criminal penalties under the nondiscrimination statues.
The letter sent to the Summerville Family YMCA can be found here.
Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation and The Herb Block Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.