Mary's Gourmet Diner agrees with the Freedom From Religion Foundation that all of its customers should be treated equally instead of some being rewarded for praying in the restaurant in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell wrote an Aug. 4 letter of complaint after FFRF, a national state-church watchdog, learned that the diner had long been offering a 15 percent discount for "praying in public."
Co-owner Mary Haglund emailed Cavell yesterday (Aug. 6): "I am notifying you & the FFRF that as of today we are no longer offering the 15% discount for Praying in Public."
A news story in the Greensboro News & Record included a photo of a sign in the restaurant window: "We at Mary's value the support of all our fellow Americans. While you may exercise your right of religious freedom at this restaurant by praying over your meal to any entity or non-entity, we must protect your freedom from religion in a public place. We are no longer issuing the 15% praying in public discount. It is illegal and we are being threatened by lawsuit. We apologize to our community for any offense this discount has incurred."
Cavell's letter noted that according to the federal Civil Rights Act, as a place of public accommodation, "Mary’s Gourmet Diner may not lawfully offer a discount only to customers who pray," and added, “Any promotions must be available to all customers regardless of religious preference or practice on a non-discriminatory basis.”
"Praise be to Mary!" commented FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "We’re very pleased that Mary’s Gourmet Diner has seen the light about the meaning of the Civil Rights Act, and responded with such alacrity."
Gaylor added, “We have found that most restaurant owners, who, after all, are in business to please all customers, are gracious and drop illegal discounts that selectively reward customer piety."
FFRF is currently involved in one such suit in Rhode Island and took successful action before a human rights agency in Milwaukee.