Praying before meals is something that singer/songwriter Dan Bremnes has always done. Whether he is at home or in a restaurant, he stops to thank God for the blessing of another meal before his first bite.
After signing with Capitol Christian Music Group in June and having his first single, "Beautiful," release in July, he found himself in the middle of a radio promotions tour which meant a lot more time on the road, eating in restaurants.
On July 31st, one such restaurant in Winston Salem, North Carolina gave his group a 15% discount on their bill for "praying in public." The owners of Mary's Gourmet Diner, Mary Haglund and her daughter Shama Blalock, are obviously Christians and they had been quietly giving that discount for four years. Dan was surprised, pleasantly so and he did what so many today do when they are delighted by something -- he shared it to his Facebook.
The news went viral and before long, CNN called, wanting to interview him. They ran a video piece with the cutesy subtitle of "separation of church and plate."
Three days later, the Freedom From Religion Foundation struck with veiled threats of a lawsuit in a letter from one of their lawyers. Annie Laurie Gaylor, the co-president and co-founder of the foundation told the Winston Salem Journal that while they didn't outright threaten to sue, they have "mounted and won lawsuits in other similar situations." Thus, a lawsuit against the restaurant "would not have been off the table."
Mary and Shama didn't want to break the law or get sued so they discontinued the discount. Mary told the Journal that the "discount was never meant to promote any particular religion – or lack of religion – but was meant to show appreciation for people who had 'an attitude of gratitude.'" In an interview with The Blaze, she added, "For me, every plate of food is a gift. 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."
The NY Daily News posted a video of Shama explaining it all and pointing out how as more and more people take up their cause, it appears as though they may not be breaking the law or violating anyone's civil rights, so they may decide to fight back.
I personally hope that they do fight back - lawsuit or not. As private business owners, they should be allowed to give discounts to who they see fit, when they see fit, for what they see fit. For anything "non faith based," discounts are common practice in our system of free enterprise. Think about it ...
Seniors are given discounts in restaurant all over the country every day. Lucky for them, there isn't a "Freedom From Old People Foundation" that is "protecting" us all from that "discrimination."
Military and vets are frequently given discounts. Lucky for them, there isn't a "Freedom From Those Who Put Their Lives on the Line to Protect our Freedom Foundation" "protecting" us all from that "discrimination."
Kids get discounted meals and free meals on a regular basis. If there were a "Freedom From Kids Foundation," their parents would be paying full price all the time.
And what about the bars and clubs that constantly advertise that women will get in free during a certain block of time? Is that "discriminating" against men by not giving them "the right to full and equal enjoyment" of said club?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, right now, there are 318,614,949 people in the United States. (That figure will change in mere seconds as they say there is one birth every 7 seconds, one death every 13 seconds and one international migrant entering the country every 40 seconds.) Why are the 21,000 members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation dictating how the other 318,593,949 of us live? How is it OK for .006% of the population to determine what is OK for the rest of us?
As for Dan Bremnes, he is understandably disappointed that such a wonderful gesture has drawn the ire of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. He told MusicTimes, "It's obviously disappointing that some people took this too far to what her kind intentions were truly about and that someone gets penalized for a good gesture. I hope that others will support Mary's original intent and that she knows that there are good days ahead."
For the record, as of this writing, CNN has not reported on the latest news regarding the threatening tone of the letter from the atheist group, the discontuation of the discount or the folks getting behind Mary's Gourmet Diner.