A viral story out of North Carolina states that Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem charges less if patrons pray before digging into the diner’s food. The first thing that came to mind when I read this is that the owner of the diner must think that praying will help keep the food down — maybe things are not so good in the sanitation department! I do wonder if a woman wearing a hijab who prays before eating gets the same discount. Is there a particular kind of public prayer that earns the discount? Should hands be flat as in Albrecht Dürer‘s famous drawing, or folded?
I know that the diner thinks that it is legal to favor some people with a discount instead of just charging more to folk that don’t meet their personal standards of perfection. But the old “its just a discount” excuse isn’t any more fair than a southern poll tax. Come to think of it, could the diner hike its prices to $100 for a hamburger and give a $95 discount to those who could pass a religious purity test? Perhaps Catholics and Jews would be entitled to different, though not as good, discounts as well. A twist of the tassel or whirl of the rosary might not be quite enough to meet the test.
I don’t like the idea of a public establishment treating people differently based on their religious, sexual, political, or racial affiliations. I know that a large segment of our population thinks that any action or practice that affirms their own religious beliefs is good, but can’t handle it when that same freedom is turned around against them in any public setting.
UPDATE: There is a press report that faced with a letter that this practice violates the law (presumably Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), the restaurant rescinded its policy.