Mo. shop owner apologizes to religious skeptics

AP News
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Posted: Nov 22, 2011 3:38 PM
Mo. shop owner apologizes to religious skeptics

A businessman has apologized for briefly posting a sign in the window of his Springfield gelato shop informing those in town for a convention of religious skeptics that they were not welcome at his Christian business.

Andy Drennen apologized in a letter posted Monday on the website Reddit. He said he posted the hastily drawn sign in his shop, Gelato Mio, on Saturday after seeing someone attending Skepticon delivering a mock sermon and cursing the Bible.

The sign read: "Skepticon is NOT welcomed to my Christian Business."

Dreenen, 28, said his response was impulsive and "was completely wrong and unacceptable," and that he didn't actually turn anyone away from the store, which opened last year.

He said he removed the sign after about 10 minutes, realizing it was wrong. But it was up long enough for someone to snap a photo and post it online, leading to a flood of angry emails and comments on the company's Web pages, The Springfield News-Leader reported Tuesday ( http://sgfnow.co/sS6rgs). He said he disabled the store's Facebook page Sunday because of overwhelming traffic.

Ryan Culbertson-Faegre, captain of the Springfield chapter of the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which helped organize the convention, said the sign violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination based on race, religion and national origin.

"It's flagrantly illegal. It's flagrantly un-American," he said.

Culbertson-Faegre said he doesn't expect any legal action to be taken against Gelato Mio, especially after Drennen's apology.

"As humanists, we have to forgive other people for their trespassing," Culbertson-Faegre said. "I personally accept the apology. Forgiveness is very important to humanism."

Drennen said he mistakenly assumed Skepticon had something to do with UFOs, and that he had welcomed the convention by offering attendees a 10 percent discount. He said he served about 250 convention-goers on Saturday before venturing out when business slowed to find out more about it.

"Everyone that came through the door was nice," he said. "They were really nice people."

He said it he was surprised and offended when he heard disrespectful comments about Christianity.

"There was this guy who made very vulgar comments about my faith," Drennen said. "He was just really disrespectful. Very, very disrespectful toward my Christian views."

The negative reaction to Drennen's sign has pushed down Gelato Mio's user ratings on Yelp and Google Review. Drennen said he is concerned, but he hopes his community support and prior reputation will help him persevere.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com