Eating Popcorn With A Spoon

24 September 2005

Todays e-mail

Just read this e-mail today. Not sure what to think of it. But I do find it rather peculiar, so I decided to share it:

Dear Universists,

Was it case of religious discrimination, Christian conviction or Christian intimidation?

As treasurer for the Universist Movement, I was requested to order silicone wristbands as thank-you gifts for our donors. These are common items, produced for most every cause, point of view and organization. They should be simple enough to acquire, I thought. Guess that shows how little I understand about the control “church” folk have on commerce these days.

This morning I contacted Brass Reminders Company, Inc., one of the companies offering quality customized wristbands. The employee I spoke with was helpful, informative and seemed happy to take my order. He gave us a firm ship date and accepted our credit card payment. I sent our logo as soon as I got off the phone.

Several hours later, after banking, grocery shopping, visiting Mother in the nursing home and buying gas, I returned to my computer to find the following message:

“The owner of the company has decided to decline this order. We have a division that sells Inspirational products to Christian Bookstores worldwide, and we cannot be associated in any way with your movement. Your order and the credit card # you gave us has been safely shredded.”

“Thank you for understanding. We do close to a million dollars a year in the Christian market, and cannot risk association with anything that could be viewed as contrary.”

We were referred to a competitor.

Now folks I don’t know how you read that, but to me it says a hell of a lot and leaves a bunch of very serious questions.

First, right up front, every business has the right to refuse business so long as its not for reasons violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I am not questioning that. What I’m concerned about is why a commercial enterprise refuses to sell its product to a real customer “standing there with cash in hand.” Let’s look at the options.

Are we Universists encountering a company that does not accept the basic American principle of non-discrimination for reasons of race, sex, religion, etc.? Have we, by virtue of our world view, our questioning of “Faith,” our championing of humanity, our “religion,” become the acceptable group to be refused lunch at the counter, sent to the back of the bus, relegated to the “other” restroom and water fountain?

Have we, in these United States, reached the point where our money is worthless because we don’t accept the majority “religion“? It’s possible, but really there are other possibilities we need to look in to.

Perhaps our business was refused because this business owner is such a devout and dedicated fundamental Christian that he cannot allow the possibility of doubt to exist in his or her world. Such people do exist, unfortunately in abundance, it appears. There are people who are so uncertain of their own ability to reason and deal with the questions of life that they close their eyes and ears to everythingthat isn’t tagged with “WWJD,” “Christian Business”, or John 3-16. For a person of this ilk, the possibility of doing business with Universists must be frightening in the extreme, like making a pact with Satan at the cross roads at midnight; a first class ticket to hell’s fire. After all, we do reject the certainty that they live by. Of course, if that is what we’re dealing (or rather not dealing) with, we can only regret the waste of the potential another life spent boxed in fear and chained to hate and bigotry.

But there’s another more disturbing possibility, the one stated right up front. This business is dependent on its customers and believes a big one, the “Christian market,” would shut them down at the very hint that they did business with The Universist Movement. Now folks, that speaks volumes about the state of business in this country today and the ability of the “Church” to trample on the rights of citizens who do not subscribe to their dogma. Is the market being controlled by fear of reprisal from a vindictive “Christian market” that demonstrates its own lack of moral and ethical standards by threatening explicitly or implicitly such reprisals? That is exactly what I read in this note declining our business. There can be little doubt of this business owner’s fear of loss of a major customer at the suggestion of his doing business with us.

On a brighter note, it would appear that the Universist Movement is being recognized as a force to be dealt with by some. While I regret the discrimination, fear and cowardice it elicits from those who choose to live their lives in the “Faith” industry, at least we know we are opening the door for a few to escape. An inquiring mind is a terrible thing to waste.

E. Frank Smith

Treasurer, The Universist Movement


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