The Freedom From Religion Foundation has taken action against a well-publicized violation of the Civil Rights Act by a restaurant in Winston–Salem, N.C., which is offering a 15% discount to customers “who pray over their meals.”
Mary Haglund, owner of Mary’s Gourmet Diner, has reportedly offered the “Praying in Public” discount for four years. But when a Christian radio station posted an image of a customer’s receipt on its Facebook page, the story went viral.
FFRF Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell promptly wrote a letter yesterday (Aug. 4), informing Haglund, daughter of a missionary, that “it is illegal for Mary’s Gourmet Diner to discriminate, or show favoritism, on the basis of religion.”
With more than 21,000 members, including over 500 in North Carolina and an active state chapter, the Triangle Freethought Society, FFRF is the largest national association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics), which acts as a state/church watchdog.
The federal Civil Rights Act accords all citizens “the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation . . . without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, or national origin.” As a place of “public accommodation,” Mary’s Gourmet Diner may not lawfully offer a discount only to customers who pray.
Even if the practice were inclusive of customers who engaged in prayer to all types of gods (e.g., Allah, Zeus, Satan), the “promotional practice favors religious customers, and denies customers who do not pray and nonbelievers the right to ‘full and equal’ enjoyment of Mary’s Gourmet Diner,” wrote Cavell.
“Any promotions must be available to all customers regardless of religious preference or practice on a non-discriminatory basis.”