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Restaurant drops prayer discount, citing threat of lawsuit

Mary's Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, landed

Mary's Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, landed in hot water when news of their 15-percent public prayer discount spread. Credit: Facebook / Mary's Gourmet Diner

A restaurant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, landed in hot water recently when its 15 percent discount for parties praying in public made the national news.

Now, according to reports from several media outlets, the discount is no more.

“We are no longer issuing the 15% praying in public discount. It is illegal and we are being threatened by a lawsuit,” read a handwritten sign posted at Mary’s Gourmet Diner.

News of the discount went viral when Z88.3, a Christian radio station in Orlando, Florida, posted a photo of a Mary’s receipt on Facebook on July 30.

“A friend of ours just shared her receipt from lunch where she got a discount for praying in public!!! How cool is that?” radio station staff wrote underneath a photo of the receipt, which clearly showed a line reading “-15% Praying in Public.”

The photo, which got 5,330 shares at last count, drew comments ranging from the overwhelmingly positive to the downright offensive.

“Paying people to pray. What next dragging people at gun point into churches?” read one critical comment posting under the name Deborah Rubano.

The reaction to the discount prompted the restaurant to post a message on its Facebook page on Aug. 1.

“There’s a lot of craziness going on in regard to the 15% discount. ... 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,” the message read. “Who you talk to or meditate on etc. is your business.”

The discontinued discount at Mary’s appeared to be prompted by a letter from the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, which sent a letter to the restaurant earlier this week that urged them to stop.

“Offering this discount violates the federal Civil Rights Act,” read the letter, signed by the foundation’s staff attorney, Elizabeth Cavell. “Your restaurant’s restrictive promotional practice favors religious customers, and denies customers who do not pray.”

In a press release dated Aug. 7, the foundation noted that “Co-owner Mary Haglund emailed Cavell yesterday (Aug. 6): ‘I am notifying you & the FFRF that as of today we are no longer offering the 15% discount for Praying in Public.’ ”

Haglund told one media outlet earlier this week that her intent had always been positive and that she never meant to offend anyone.

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