The Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission has ruled against an atheist who claimed that a Lancaster County restaurant offering a discount to Sunday diners who bring a current church bulletin with them discriminates on the basis of religion.
The Independence Law Center is reporting that the suit, filed by John Wolff, 80, an atheist and member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation against Prudhomme’s Lost Cajun Kitchen in Columbia, Pennsylvania, resulted in a Final Order allowing the restaurant to continue the practice.
The feud started this summer when Wolff, who has never eaten in the restaurant, filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission claiming that the 22-year-old restaurant should not be allowed to give discounts to customers based on religion.
“I bear them no ill will but they shouldn’t be pushing religion,” said Wolff.
However, Sharon Prudhomme, the restaurant’s co-owner, said pushing religion wasn’t her reason for initiating the program. It was to generate sales on Sundays. Because many community members and local pastors are patrons of her restaurant during the week, she thought it would be a great way to bring them back on Sundays.
“I thought ‘How can I boost our Sunday sales for dinner?’ And, I thought ‘Well you know what we have a lot of folks who go to church who come in throughout the week,’” Prudhomme said.
In spite of the suit, she refused to stop offering the discount, and has now prevailed in court.
“We should all keep in mind what discrimination is and why we passed laws like the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act,” said Randall Wenger of the Independence Law Center. “This law was designed to prohibit the mean-hearted refusal to serve someone at a lunch counter on account of their race or religion—not the kind-hearted desire to honor a public good like church attendance. . . . Honoring an American tradition like church attendance should not be treated like bigotry.”
Had the case gone forward, “it would have confused the language we use to talk about civil rights,” Wenger said. “If everything is as egregious as not serving an African American at a lunch counter, we lose the ability to understand and express what’s wrong and what’s not.”
He expressed relief to see that the agency in charge of enforcing non-discrimination laws ruled in Prudhomme’s favor.
“Religion should not be treated as poison—even if the Freedom from Religion Foundation in its constant attacks treats it that way. . . The American people are tired of having religion treated as something that needs to be hidden from public life or apologized for.”
Prudhomme’s Lost Cajun Kitchen plans to continue to offer its church bulletin discount to persons of all backgrounds.
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