Customers who thank God before eating meals at Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, North Carolina receive a 15 percent discount for "praying in public." Mary Haglund, owner of the diner, confirmed the price reduction in an interview with The Blaze, noting that she’s been offering it for the past four years.

The problem? It's illegal under the Civil Rights Act:

42 U.S.C. §2000a (a)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, as defined in this section, without discrimination on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin. [Bold emphasis added]

I'm sure the Freedom From Religion Foundation will be taking action once they hear the news. The FFRF has intervened under similar circumstances and succeeded more than once.

Tags: act, civil, discount, prayer, rights

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So my question is what would happen if a nonreligious person feigned a prayer at their facility and it was obvious to the establishment's owner that the customer was insincere? Could they refuse to offer the discount? Possible consequences?

Would the discount still apply if you wanted to pray to Allah? What if you were grateful to the Flying Spaghetti Monster (may you be touched by His noodly appendage) for delivering your daily pasta?

May His Pasta water drain through the Holiest Colander

I don't think the action, in itself, is illegal (although Haglund's intentions certainly would make it illegal).
Requesting guests to perform some kind of action, or bring a certain item in exchange for a discount is not an uncommon thing to do by shops and diners. So as long as they don't expect people to mean it, and if people can say grace using whatever deity they want, I don't think the government has too much power to stop it.

Question: would it also be illegal to give discount to guests who sing (part of) the national anthem?

I don't think the action, in itself, is illegal (although Haglund's intentions certainly would make it illegal).

It's illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Requesting guests to perform some kind of action, or bring a certain item in exchange for a discount is not an uncommon thing to do by shops and diners.

True, but if the kind of action required to receive the discount involves performing a religious act, being born with a particular skin color or of a certain race, or originating from a specific country, it's illegal.

A business cannot offer a discount to someone for being Lutheran, white skinned or born in the United States, for instance.

So as long as they don't expect people to mean it, and if people can say grace using whatever deity they want, I don't think the government has too much power to stop it.

The government has the power to prevent discrimination and regulate commerce. A business which makes irreligious (or privately religious) pay 6% more to eat a meal falls under both.

The government has no power to stop people from saying grace, nor do I think it should. Nobody is proposing we stop the prayer, only the discriminatory discount.


Question: would it also be illegal to give discount to guests who sing (part of) the national anthem?

That's an interesting question. The Civil Rights act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion and national origin. Singing ability is not mentioned. However...

The population of my home town is 70% Portuguese. Many are first generation immigrants who can't speak English, including the elderly couple living next door to my parents. I doubt they know the national anthem or could muster enough English to sing it properly even if they did.

Would someone not originally from the US know the anthem at all (in English)? Does the discount amount to tacit discrimination on the basis of national origin? I suppose a court of law would have to decide.

Interesting, I didn't know that offering a discount for telling a script is illegal if the script has religious associations.

Regarding the national anthem, I was more thinking along the lines of patriotism. Since you would then be making foreigners praise the US.

Hmmmm….I don’t think their god will be happy about this. Matthew 6:6 is clear on the subject.

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

I want to go there, pray insincerely and nonsensically, and demand my discount.  Does the establishment indicate in writing that the prayer must be specifically aimed towards the Christian deity?  Of course, if I find myself in North Carolina, I would most certainly find more interesting things to do, but it's fun to think about.

I'm not sure it's illegal as long as insincere prayers are acceptable, and I'm sure that with a 15% discount at stake, many an insincere prayer has been said. Race is different, and more serious, because you can't be insincerely black.

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