Background: Doug Thomas, SCS president, was in the audience when Karis Burkowski, co-author of Why Men Made God mentioned that the Customer Experience Manager of the Waterloo Chapters branch had refused to accept her the book for sale and also declined to offer her a book signing event normally offered to local authors. The Manager expressed concern that the event would attract extreme religious people who would disrupt the event. Similarly, the Manager of the Kitchener branch declined to do business with Karis. With Karis’ approval, SCS sent the letter below to the Waterloo Manager and to the Kitchener Manager.
As a result of these letters, a district manager has met with Karis and offered a book signing with meet and greet opportunity at the Waterloo store on September 10, 2016. Chapters will also promote the event with posters and inserts in books purchased by customers prior to the September 10 event. The Kitchener store will offer a similar promotion on another date, but details have yet to be confirmed.
Success: Chapters managers have responded responsibly and professionally by recognizing Karis’ concerns and by taking significant positive steps to improve the situation. SCS considers this a success in communicating with business people and improving understanding between the secular humanist community and businesses like Chapters. All that remains is for SCS to encourage people to attend the event on September 10th, 2016 in the Waterloo Chapters store and the event in the Kitchener Chapters store when details are finalized.
May 17, 2016
Customer Experience Manager
Waterloo, Ontario N2J 2Z6
RE: Why Men Made God, Karis Burkowski
Dear [Customer Service Manager]:
Secular Connexion Séculière advocates on behalf of secular humanists who face discrimination in Canada.
A local author, Karis Burkowski, has informed us that you have decided not to stock her book, Why Men Made God, on consignment.
Apparently your store policy is to require the author to hold an in-store signing and to provide relevant promotion for that event. Such a policy is certainly helpful to both the author and your store.
However, you indicated to Ms. Burkowski that some members of the religious community would object strenuously to the in-store event and to the sale of this book in your store and because of that you would not consider selling Why Men Made God.
As you can understand, we are disappointed that a few extreme voices could create a de facto condition of censorship in such a comprehensive store as yours.
We feel that your refusal, on this basis, to sell Why Men Made God, a book that presents information based on thorough research, in your store goes against the basic principles of academic free speech.
While our community does not engage in such pressure tactics, one wonders if the same reaction would occur if we objected strenuously to the many well-researched religious publications that are on Chapters’ shelves.
As you can see, this leads us to perceive your actions to be discriminatory. Please reconsider your decision.
Doug Thomas, President
Secular Connexion Séculière