A debate over religious freedom, discrimination, and the law arose last week as a receipt from Mary’s Gourmet Diner went viral. The receipt was notable for one particular line — a fifteen percent discount for praying in public.
The receipt was shared over and over, with responses torn between praise and ire, as Inquisitr reported at the time. While many thought Mary’s Gourmet Diner was doing a great service by encouraging praying in public, others considered the discount a discriminatory one.
They felt it shut out nonbelievers and those whose religions forbid praying, and many even alleged that the policy might deny the discount for non-Christian prayers.
As the responses continued over the course of a week, the restaurant back further from the policy.
On Friday, the Facebook page for Mary’s Gourmet Diner bore a response to the controversy, reading, in part:
There’s a lot of craziness going on in regard to the 15% discount. I will not respond to all the posts. I will say that it is not a “policy”, it’s a gift we give at random to customers who take a moment before their meal. This could be prayer or just a moment to breathe & push the busyness of the world away. Who you talk to or meditate on etc. is your business
(Full post here.)
On Tuesday, after several more days of the receipt, and responses to the policy of discount for praying, being shared and discussed widely, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based organization that fights for separation of church and state on behalf of members across the U.S., announced it had sent a letter to the restaurant, advising them that the practice was likely illegal.
The full letter can be accessed here as a pdf file, but the most relevant portion explains that the discount for praying may violate the Civil Rights Act, which states:
All persons shall be entitled to 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.
According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Mary’s Gourmet Diner violates that law with the ‘praying in public’ discount.
The local news station, Fox 8, reported on Wednesday that Mary Haglund, who owns the restaurant, was discontinuing the promotion, which has gone on for four years.
Haglund said she had no idea that a discount for praying in public might violate any laws.