Not an out-of-the-box question here but an actual article. Should the owner of a restaurant give discounts to diners if the wait staff sees them pray publicly before their meals? I say no. I say that’s special treatment, discriminatory and completely inappropriate. The restaurant in question is Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The pious (“pie”-us?) proof has been delivered unto the social media masses in the form of a picture of a receipt from the restaurant, showing a 15% discount applied for “Praying in Public.”
The tab belonged to Jordan Smith, who had traveled to Winston-Salem for a business trip and stopped for breakfast at Mary’s with two colleagues Wednesday morning.
She tells HLN the group “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% discount for praying,’ which I’d never seen before.”
Impressed, Smith shared a photo of the receipt on her Facebook page.
The article has a picture of the receipt. The owners of the diner admit freely that they give everyone who prays out loud the same deal.
She’s also been surprised how the photo has spread online. “I just innocently posted it to my Facebook page and it’s been really fun to see where it’s gone from there.”
Innocently. Sure. Sure you weren’t bragging just a little bit? “I pray before meals and God worked through the owners of the diner to reward me for that. God is Great!” Maybe that wasn’t a conscious thought-process, but it might have been there. NPR is where I picked up the story. They quote from the diner’s Facebook page to get some opinions on this. I’ll do the same. From the owners themselves:
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. … 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!!!!
I like Donna’s response below:
I’m sure the discount was well-intentioned. However, it is specifically referred to, both on the ticket and by the wait staff, as a discount for “praying in public,” which is a specifically religious activity. Your response is very gracious and dignified, and you appear to be a generous and caring soul. I’m sure you can find other ways to encourage your customers that would provide equitable service for everyone without rewarding overtly religious practices. “Peace, love, & happy eating!”
Stop giving special treatment to overtly religious people. Unless some other receipts turn up with the words “seen meditating” or “seen breathing deeply” with the same discount, we have to assume you only reward a religious practice you personally follow and “punish” secular people by make them pay full price. I see Rachel agrees with me:
No, thanks. I don’t need your bribery. Everyone breathes before a meal… this is pushing religion on people and punishing people who reject religion for fact. My money will never go to someone pushing religion in any way on others. People do not need religion to be happy, they do not need religion to be successful, they do not need religion to be emotionally sound. Enough is enough. Keep it at home.
Or at least keep it personal and low-key when you’re in public. Be courteous to other diners who might not want a show with their meal. Just bow, mumble, and eat. Other comments fire back with complaints about the criticism, reminding readers that there is freedom of religion in the States and people aren’t being forced to eat there.
That’s true, but then aren’t we looking at a something akin to segregation? In some ways it doesn’t seem too far removed from having a “whites only” drinking fountain. Special places for “people like us” and you have to go over there. You have to pay a different price because you don’t believe what we do. Personally, I wouldn’t want to support that kind of discrimination and abuse of power.
What do you think?
UPDATE Aug 7, 2014: The Friendly Atheist reports that the Freedom from Religion Foundation had a few words to say regarding this diner and their reward system. The cafe has since eliminated the 15% discount for prayers. A handwritten note on the door is what they offer instead:
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.