You may remember from this past August how Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, North Carolina gave customers a 15% discount if they were seen praying before a meal:
Even though the discount was supposedly open to people of all faiths, it was clearly geared toward Christians and offered no alternatives for atheists.
Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Liz Cavell wrote a letter to the diner’s owner Mary Haglund warning her of the legal repercussions of her actions:
It does not matter that the promotion is available to customers regardless of which god they pray to. Your restaurant’s restrictive promotional practice favors religious customers, and denies customers who do not pray and nonbelievers the right to “full and equal” enjoyment of Mary’s Gourmet Diner. Any promotions must be available to all customers regardless of religious preference or practice on a non-discriminatory basis.
We urge you to discontinue this discriminatory discount. If you truly wish to reward gratitude in customers regardless of religion, you must do so in a way that does not single out customers who pray for favorable treatment.
The letter worked. Haglund announced shortly after that the diner would be putting an end to the prayer discount, courtesy of a hand-written note in the 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.
Someone at The Daily Show heard about the controversy and sent correspondent Jordan Klepper to cover it a few weeks ago. That involved visiting Haglund and interviewing FFRF’s Dan Barker.
They plan to air the segment sometime this week:
“Jon Stewart chooses all the stories,” Mary Haglund, the restaurant’s co-owner, said. “I asked the producer how and why this story. He said somebody from Charlotte pitched the story. Then I think they researched it and heard what I said and that the FFRF had come after me threatening a lawsuit.”
“They (the ‘Daily Show’ producers) told me they saw me as a nice lady trying to do something positive and pretty much got bullied by the FFRF. The ‘Daily Show’ folks see the FFRF people as being petty and that they should perhaps choose their battles better.”
I’m afraid she’s probably right. The point of the segment will be to mock atheists. It’s not the first time that’s happened on the show, and in fact, Barker was interviewed by correspondent Jason Jones in 2010 over FFRF’s opposition to the Mother Teresa stamp. (FFRF was the butt of the joke then, too.)
You can read Barker’s account of the interview here.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier. Thanks to Brian for the link)