Diner gives discount for prayers in public, discriminates against atheists

A North Carolina Diner is giving a 15 percent discount to customers for praying in public, effectively discriminating against atheists and other reasonable people who do not pray.

NPR reports:

When Jordan Smith got her tab after breakfast at Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, N.C., she was pleasantly surprised to find a 15 percent discount — for “praying in public.”

Smith, on a business trip, tells HLN that she and her colleagues “prayed over our meal and the waitress came over at the end of the meal and said, ‘Just so you know, we gave you a 15 percent discount for praying.’ ”

Smith then snapped a photo of her receipt, complete with a line item for “15% Praying in Public ($6.07)” and posted it to her Facebook page. Not surprisingly, it’s gone viral.

The policy has received a great deal of attention, both favorable and negative. Many Christians love the policy of rewarding public prayer. Others, theists and atheists alike, find the policy questionable at best, if not outright discriminatory, and illegal.

In response to the reaction concerning the diner’s policy of rewarding public prayer, one of the owners posted the following status update on the diner’s Facebook page:

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. I have lived in a 3rd world country, there are people starving. We live in a country with an abundance of beautiful food. I NEVER take that for granted. It warms my heart to see people with an attitude of gratitude. Prayer, meditation or just breathing while being grateful opens the heart chakra. It’s good for everyone!!!! Thanks to my local community for your support…you know who I am. As for all the people posting negative comments about me & my restaurant who have never met me or been to the restaurant, thanks for sharing, it’s your right to speak out, just as it is mine. Peace, love & happy eating!!!!

Apparently the owners of the diner are attempting to distance themselves from the claim that they have a policy of rewarding public prayer, probably for legal reasons. However, HLN reports (with screencap) that the diner confirmed that the discount for “public prayer” is “policy.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion in a public accommodation, such as a restaurant.

And then there is this, Matthew 6:5 and 6:6:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

If the diner’s policy of rewarding public prayer is not illegal, it is still obnoxious, divisive, and ultimately unfair. The owners may be well meaning, but they are wrong to reward those who pray in public. By rewarding those who pray, they punish those who do not pray.

Perhaps most important, by offering a discount for praying in public, the owners of the diner ultimately cheapen, trivialize and demean the supposedly sacred act they are trying to champion.

15% Discount for “Praying in Public”
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