Atheist Group Forces Diner to Stop Offering Discount for Praying
Pressured by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has terminated its offer of a 15% discount for customers who would pray publicly as they ate.
Once the FFRF learned of the restaurant’s discount, its attorney Elizabeth Cavell threatened the diner with a complaint in an August 4 letter. Co-owner Mary Haglund immediately capitulated, emailing Cavell on August 6, “I am notifying you & the FFRF that as of today we are no longer offering the 15% discount for Praying in Public.”
The original posting of the restaurant’s offer was revealed in the Greensboro News & Record, which showed a picture of the sign in the window of the diner reading:
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 threatened that the diner was flouting the federal Civil Rights Act, asserting, “Mary’s Gourmet Diner may not lawfully offer a discount only to customers who pray… Any promotions must be available to all customers regardless of religious preference or practice on a non-discriminatory basis.”
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor blustered, “Praise be to Mary! 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… 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.”
On July 17, the IRS agreed to monitor church sermons as a result of a suit brought by FFRF against the IRS. Gaylor said, “This is a victory, and we’re pleased with this development in which the IRS has proved to our satisfaction that it now has in place a protocol to enforce its own anti-electioneering provisions. Of course, we have the complication of a moratorium currently in place on any IRS investigations of any tax-exempt entities, church or otherwise, due to the congressional probe of the IRS. FFRF could refile the suit if anti-electioneering provisions are not enforced in the future against rogue political churches.”