Statement from Camp Quest on Restaurant's Cancellation of Camp Quest Oklahoma Fundraiser

We want to thank everyone who has supported Camp Quest Oklahoma this week after their fundraising event at a barbecue restaurant was cancelled on Monday night.  The cancellation of their fundraiser, which had already started, was due to the restaurant owner, Joe Davidson, claiming that supporting the camp wasn't compatible with his Christian identity.  Since the cancellation, Camp Quest Oklahoma has raised over $5,000 in donations, and these donations have come from Christians as well as members of the secular community.  We know that Mr. Davidson's views and actions do not represent all Christians, and have been especially heartened to see messages and donations from Christians like one man on facebook who said "I am Christian and read on Reddit what happened. Donated because what they did was ridiculous. Hope it helps."

The Stiefel Freethought Foundation is matching Camp Quest Oklahoma donations with a $5,000 grant supporting Camp Quest, Inc.'s national efforts.  Although we would have preferred this unfortunate event not happen, the silver lining is the awareness and support that we have received in its aftermath.  This broad community support will help Camp Quest Oklahoma, and the broader expansion of Camp Quest's programs.

The story broke Monday night with a reddit story and blog posts showing pictures of the flyer advertising the event and the sign cancelling the event as well as interviews with the local organizer of the fundraiser and the restaurant owner. The story has been subsequently covered on two local television stations in Oklahoma, NBC 2 and Fox 23, and restaurant owner Joe Davidson has issued a statement.  

In response to Joe Davidson's statement, we want to make clear that we're glad that Mr. Davidson supports people's rights to their own beliefs, and that his restaurant serves everyone.  We are disappointed that he continues to claim that Oklahoma Joe's was not informed about what Camp Quest is about.  From the beginning of planning this fundraiser copies of Camp Quest's brochure, were provided to restaurant management.  It's possible that this information didn't make it to Mr. Davidson himself, but it was provided by Camp Quest to restaurant management from the beginning.  The restaurant also approved a flyer that clearly stated Camp Quest's mission including our emphasis on freethought and humanist values.  It's disappointing, that in light of the restaurant's prior approval, Mr. Davidson let his ignorance about secular people get in the way of honoring the commitment that his restaurant made to hold this event.  We hope that Mr. Davidson learns that supporting children going to a camp where they have positive adult role models, science activities, and are encouraged to think for themselves is consistent with both secular and Christian values.  

Camp Quest is focused on teaching children science and critical thinking skills, and providing a supportive and fun community.  Our programs are open to campers from religious and non-religious families, and we do not label children with a worldview.  Campers from religious families attend our camps and have positive experiences there.  

Our programs do focus on providing supportive community for children from non-religious families, because these families are often excluded from participating in other youth activities such as the Boy Scouts, which requires children to profess a belief in God.  It's important that children from secular families have a place where they can be themselves, and learn that there are other families out there like theirs.  It's clear from recent events that this kind of safe space is particularly necessary in Oklahoma.

We do want to emphasize one other thing to everyone following this issue and supporting Camp Quest.  Our values, from the brochure that we gave to Oklahoma Joe's BBQ include encouraging our campers to engage respectfully with people who have different views.  We know that there is a lot of anger out there due to Joe Davidson's actions, and that is understandable.  Mr. Davidson did something that is hurtful and discriminatory due to his ignorance about secular people. We hope he will learn from this experience and apologize.  At the same time, we would like to encourage anyone who is providing feedback to Oklahoma Joe's restaurant or Joe Davidson about this, to please do so calmly and reasonably.  

Also, please remember that the Oklahoma Joe's BBQ restaurants in the Kansas City area are independently owned, and have nothing to do with this incident.  If you're in Kansas City, don't hesitate to get their tasty barbecue.

We look forward to returning our focus to planning a great summer session for all of our campers.  Camp Quest 2013 will be the biggest and best year yet!