Service of Discounts

August 25th, 2014

Categories: Discounts, Prayer, Restaurant

15 percent off

Business must be brisk at Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, N.C. as so many have now heard of the place thanks to interference from an organization some 850 miles away.

The diner has been in the news first for offering a 15 percent discount to customers who said grace before eating and then for dropping the offer because Mary Haglund, one of the owners, feared being sued.

Grace before eatingThe restaurant was approached by Elizabeth Cavell, lawyer for the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis. The foundation’s complaint: “Offering this discount violates the federal Civil Rights Act,” reported Hannah Bae in “Your restaurant’s restrictive promotional practice favors religious customers, and denies customers who do not pray.”

Red Valentine shirtNext will a restaurant or bowling alley that offers a discount to anyone who wears a red shirt on Valentine’s Day be warned because it discriminates against those who don’t believe in either the saint or the love celebration?

In this climate how does a credit union like Oceanside Christopher conduct business without being hounded? With branches in both Oceanside and Seaford, LI, it bills itself as the “Catholic Credit Union” and promotes free checking and low interest rates. There are funeral parlors that advertise their services to care for the deceased of certain religions. Should they expect to be threatened?

Anyone could have been eligible for Mary’s discount: It didn’t require a feat of physical dexterity eliminating the disabled, clumsy, the very young or old. Should a business’s hands be tied/held hostage for such a reason?

High jump

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6 Responses to “Service of Discounts”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    What’s the problem? In some places, children are given dinners and/or discounts, others, not. Some diners walk in with coupons and get a break. If someone should chose to sue this establishment for promoting prayer, a wise judge would bounce the case out on its ear, while charging the plaintiff punitive damages for wasting the court’s time.

    Once upon a time, this was a free country. That should mean one has the right to believe or not to believe in the supernatural, or am I missing something?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I’m with you Lucrezia.

    However it costs money to counter a lawsuit and I can only assume that a diner might not have the kind of cash flow required to pay for a lawyer and most lawyers aren’t interested in small potato suits and won’t take them on contingency. In addition, one can’t be sure of the outcomes of such cases as unfortunately what makes sense doesn’t always happen. Last, fighting a lawsuit takes time and if Mary, co-owner, is also the cook, chances are she doesn’t have much free time.

  3. Doubting Tom Said:

    I am a skeptic who has spent a fair amount of time amongst a fair variety of religious fanatics.

    I learned fairly early on that if you go to a French restaurant which bills itself as Kosher, you shouldn’t expect to be eating food that tastes like it does in France.

    Mary’s Gourmet Diner is doing me a big favor by advertising its 15% discount. It’s telling me that this is a place that I should stay away from at all cost. I cannot imagine anything more uncomfortable than having to eat in the midst of a bunch of fervent fundamentalists all juiced up with Christian goodness.

    That foundation and the courts got it wrong this time.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I have friends who say grace and I don’t consider them fanatic. It’s their tradition.

    In fact, there are times, such as Thanksgiving, where I find grace–or appropriate words said before digging in–comforting. I think of some toasts as a kind of grace…wishing friends and relatives happy Christmas, birthday or anniversary. It means no harm. In our family, at holiday dinners, we also think of those who are absent: These could be people who have died or who live far away.

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    I found it necessary to read this post twice just to make sure that I was not confused or delusional. Is it possible that the protection of civil rights now reaches into the most subjective and personal aspects of any possible private business?

    It does not seem that anyone is forced either to patronize Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, N.C., nor if they do so, to say “grace” to receive a discount. Freedom of choice to choose where you dine and or to seek a discount seem unequivocally inviolate in this case!

    However, I do feel deep concern for Elizabeth Cavell, lawyer for the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis. and the Foundation itself, who state that “Offering this discount violates the federal Civil Rights Act.” I sought to verify the existence of such an entity as the absurdly misnamed Foundation only to find that it does exist. Written across it website in large letters is “Protecting the constitutional principle of separation of state and church.” I found myself even more confused. Just what about an offer of a voluntary discount based on a voluntary gesture made available in the event of a voluntary visit by a customer to Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston Salem, N.C., possibly have to do with either church or state? Perhaps the whole article about Ms. Cavell’s complaint was simply a writing sample for a position with the Harvard Lampoon.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Brilliant! The Lampoon.

    Or wouldn’t it be grand if we learned that some slick PR person came up with the idea of involving Ms. Cavell and her Foundation client so that people all over the country, if not the world, would hear about Mary’s place? Almost as smart as the ALS ice bucket fundraising initiative in fact.

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