The North Carolina diner that had attracted widespread attention because of a 15 percent discount it sometimes gave customers who pray before meals has decided to drop the discount over fears of legal action.
A lawyer from the Freedom from Religion Foundation atheist organization sent a letter to Mary's Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, calling the discount illegal under federal civil rights laws, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
Mary Haglund, co-owner of the restaurant, dropped the discount over fears of a lawsuit from the foundation, according to WGHP-TV in High Point, North Carolina.
The diner posted a note on its front window Wednesday, the Journal noted, which read:
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.
But Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said there was no threat to sue Mary's Gourmet Cafe — only a mention that it has won lawsuits in similar venues, the Journal reported. But Gaylor added that a lawsuit against the restaurant “would not have been off the table,” the Journal noted.
“People who are atheists don’t pray,” Gaylor told the Journal, adding that it's illegal to “charge an atheist more than a Christian.”
News of the restaurant’s unusual price break spread after a customer who prayed over her meal got a discount and then posted her receipt on Facebook, according to HLN.
The receipt made its way onto Z88.3 radio’s Facebook page in Orlando, where it captured the attention of thousands of individuals who both “liked” and shared it on the social network.
In an interview with TheBlaze before the discount was dropped, Haglund, 60, said the gesture had nothing to do a specific religion, nor was it ever advertised.
“For me, every plate of food is a gift,” she said. “And I never take that for granted and when I see someone in a restaurant honoring their gratefulness at my table … it touches my heart.”
She told the Journal on Tuesday that calling it a prayer discount may have been “a bad choice of words.”
“It’s just a moment or faithfulness about the plate of food,” Haglund added to TheBlaze. “It’s not even a policy — it’s [something] we only do when we’re moved to do it.”