This past Wednesday, August 6, I posted the link to my latest column for Aleteia about Mary’s Gourmet Diner, a privately-owned establishment in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The owner, Mary Haglund, allows (I mean, allowed) her employees to offer a 15 per cent ‘praying in public” discount to patrons who stop to give thanks for their meals before digging in. The employees offered the discount at their own discretion and to no particular religious denomination. The point was to encourage folks to be thankful for the food they have when there are so many in this world that must do without.
Well, the Freedom from Religion Foundation got hold of the news about the diner discount and went after them, claiming Mary Haglund’s actions to be illegal and threatening a lawsuit if she continued. Sadly, the threat has forced Mary’s Gourmet Diner to discontinue the discount. Yesterday, the following hand-written sign appeared in the diner’s 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.”
Aleteia’s Spirituality Editor for the English Edition, Susan Wills, this morning posted a comeback to this absurd turn of events. In it, she noted that, “If an atheist just sat down and shut up for a few seconds, he might also have been rewarded with a discount.” Excellent point, Susan.
I’d also like to add that Mary’s Gourmet Diner did not penalize those who did not give thanks for their meals. The discount is not a matter of discrimination as much as it is a matter of promotion of a cause. That cause is, quite simply, to help folks to be grateful for having what others do not in order to draw attention to the plight of those in underdeveloped areas of the world who do not have enough food or water to sustain them. FFRF gets to promote their “cause,” why not Mary’s Gourmet Diner?