Is a discount for praying in public religious discrimination?

Restaurant’s ‘Praying In Public’ Discount Returns Praise, Ire; Religious Freedom Or Discrimination?

The debate over officials praying in government meetings has raged in the past few years, but one restaurant claims to be supporting the religious rights of individuals, by offering a discount for praying in public. While many find the move a positive thing, others say it’s religious discrimination, and that the practice should be stopped.

An image that shows a receipt including a 15% discount for praying in public has been going viral since an Orland, Florida radio station posted it yesterday. Z88.3 shared the image on its Facebook page, saying,

A friend of ours just shared her receipt from lunch where she got a discount for praying in public!!! How cool is that?

When some people expressed doubt that anyone anywhere was getting a discount for praying in public, even calling the image photoshopped, they were directed to a North Carolina restaurant, Mary’s Gourmet Diner. On that restaurant’s Facebook page, the rumor was confirmed:

Yes, if we see you praying, you get 15% off your bill.

While this produced a spate of support, it also returned some anger, and accusations of discrimination. One poster asked,

Just a question, because it has come up in some comments sections. Would a Muslim still enjoy a discount for praying at your restaurant? As a Christian. I would hope you are respectful of all religions that worship.

Mary’s Gourmet Restaurant responded:

Of course! It’s not really a “religious” thing. It’s a gratitude thing.

Others have pointed out that the promotion still leaves out the non-religious, such as the commenter who said,

As an establishment that offers its services to the general public, you are of course prohibited from discrimination on the basis of religious viewpoint.

See the full post here, but it essentially asked if there was a way for a non-religious person to earn the discount, pointing out that if not, it was being applied on the basis of religion, and therefor discriminatory.

This is the first time we’ve seen a ‘praying in public’ discount, but not the first time a restaurant has been accused of religious discrimination for offering discounts based on religion. According to Lancaster Online, a Pennsylvania restaurant was served with a lawsuit two years ago for giving discounts to those who brought in a church bulletin.

Jeff Wagg, a representative of the James Randi Education Foundation tells the story, too, about a similar case in which a Denny’s restaurant offered a discount to those coming from church, but couldn’t tell him how a nonreligious person might apply for the same discount.

Writing to the corporation, Wagg said,

Though I am not an attorney, I believe your promotion may violate Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states:

TITLE II–INJUNCTIVE RELIEF AGAINST DISCRIMINATION IN PLACES OF PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION
SEC. 201. (a) All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

I think a much better promotion would be for you to offer a discount and donation to any patron presenting information from a registered charity [501(c)(3)]. This would allow you to enjoy the same marketing advantages as your above promotion without resorting to discrimination.

While praying, in public or otherwise, is absolutely a protected right in America, is offering a discount for doing so protected, or is it discrimination? There seem to be no settled cases to set a precedent in the matter, but in a later post, Jeff Wagg did note that attendees of a Church of Freethought were able to get the Denny’s discount with their flyer, despite it being nonreligious.

Should praying in public be rewarded? Share your thoughts.

[Photo: Facebook]

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