Civil RIghts Act and church bulletins-- it's not free speech you moron!

My husband presented me a situation the other night, as we were getting ready for bed. He'd seen a link on his car forum about a restaurant in Lancaster county Pennsylvania that was in trouble with the law for discriminatory discounts. He, like many others whose comments on this story I've now read, didn't get why that one was not OK, but “kids eat free” or “senior citizen” discounts were OK.

He's not alone in this confusion, and it's an unfortunate thing; I was able to explain it to him, though, so now he knows. But that got me to thinking. Too many Americans have no idea what their laws say, or what they mean, except that they have “freedom of religion, so fuck y'all!” [I will explain why they are acting in an illegal manner shortly.]

The article he sent me is from Fox News. I went digging and found the Lancaster paper online, and the comments are almost as bad as the Faux Noise ones are! Wow! Talk about self-righteousness on display.

Anyway, the story explains that a man named John Wolff, an atheist (which they point out straight away, and even the headline shows the papers' anti-free thought bias “Atheist files complaint over restaurant's Sunday promotion”). Mr. Wolff got hold of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Wisconsin and asked them to send a letter to the Lost Cajun Kitchen, in Columbia. See, this Kitchen was doing a Sunday promotion of “bring in your church bulletin and get 10% off”. 

This is illegal, federally and according to the state of Pennsylvania.

One of the owners a Sharon Prudhomme, who kept and filed away the letters [yes, more than one, according to the FFRF they sent three ] that FFRF sent but ignored the fact they were breaking the law-- for over a year-- says “she has no intention of changing the discount program, which she created to bring more traffic into her restaurant on a traditionally slow day. 'I think it's a waste, to actually give it merit,' she said of the [state's] investigation of the complaint.”

Now that the state is looking into this, and it's the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission that's investigating, she can't claim she didn't know she was breaking the law. She can't claim she didn't know she was in the wrong legally. All she can do is complain and repeat the lovely bon mot that she petulantly says at the end of the article:

"I'm an American. This is an independent restaurant. I can do as I wish and I'm going to continue to offer the church-bulletin discount." [emphasis added]

I can do as I wish.

I can do as I wish...

I Can Do As I Wish!...

Sounds kinda like the same shit someone would say when they refused to seat African-Americans and people of colour at their lunch counters in the 50's and 60's. This is America, they can do as they wish!

Sounds kinda like the same shit some ass hole in a sheet would say, as he burned a cross on the front lawn of a family who didn't agree with them, or didn't shut the fuck up.

Sounds like the same shit a christian would say when he/she was told they were wrong, because they were being discriminatory against persons of other religions.

This is supposed to be 2012, not 1912... but you wouldn't know it to hear these people talk.

Now, I can here the uproar over my music, which is pretty loud today, “Oh, they have the right to offer discounts! They're not bothering anyone! Why is it OK for them to offer senior discounts, or 'kids eat free Tuesdays' but not 'bring your bulletin'?

Because seniors are protected classes under the law. You can't discriminate against them, you can't fire them because they're old. You're also not saying “only this group of seniors who go to mass at St. Vincent’s on Tuesdays get this discount”. You're not carding them, right? So you're saying, “anyone and everyone who looks like they might be 55 or 60 or whatever get This Discount.”

As for the kids eat free thing, that one's easy. When you go to Denny's they too have something like that, don't they? I think IHOP has one, too. They're everywhere, actually. If you look at the actual discount for the kids meal it will say something like: with the purchase of an adult entrée. Huh... that's a simple and elegant solution: kids eat free when their adult buys a regularly priced meal. So it's a BOGO, or Buy one, Get one-- a very very common sales tactic.

Therein lies the problem for the Prudhomme's. They're offering a discount to anyone bringing in a church bulletin. Not every church has them. Not everyone goes to church. Not everyone is religious. In fact, some religious people don't have a church to attend! 

No bulletin, no Sunday discount, and that's discrimination.

In my experience, the only churches that have bulletins are Southern and Independent Baptists and some more conservative Methodist and Lutheran churches. The only programs I've ever gotten from Catholic and Orthodox masses are for funeral or wedding masses. My husband told me that Mormon churches (I forget what their meeting building is called, but it's not the temple, and I'm too lazy to look it up right now) have bulletins. So that makes a very small portion of the most conservative christian churches that have these things.

Again, discrimination.

If you go to Mosque or Temple or Synagogue you won't usually find them (far as I know, they don't have them at all).

Quakers don't. Many mainline Protestant churches don't. Liberal churches tend not to have them. I've never heard of a Buddhist meditation retreat offering them. Not normal at Hindu temples, either.

Now, I do know some larger Pagan gatherings have programs, so you know what's going on at what times. I bet you the restaurant wouldn't have honoured a flier like that.

Again, therein lies the problem. According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title II, Section 201, part a:

All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, colour, religion, or national origin. [emphasis added] 

This restaurant is a place of public accommodation. That means that it's some place anyone can walk into and expect to be served. Not like a private country-club, or a private, invitation-only party. If you opened the door and walked into that Cajun joint, you'd expect to be able to order up your blacked catfish without any one asking to see your credentials, right?

Public accommodation means everything here. Because they're open to the public, the Prudhomme's can't discriminate or segregate. That's exactly what they're doing: discriminating on the basis of religion.

Not cool. Not cool at all.

Section (b) goes on to give a rough definition of public accommodation: inn, hotel, motel etc., restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom [sic], lunch counter etc... motion picture house, theatre, concert hall, etc., [Part b, sub-sections 1-4 lists them all]

Now the owner claims anyone can walk into a church and get a bulletin, without even having to sit through a service! Therefore she's not discriminating.

Not true.

If I have to go to a race track that races dogs, on race day, just as the dogs are lining up, in order to get a flier for the local pet store so I can get a discount on pet food, and I find dog racing morally repugnant (which I do) I'm being discriminated against. Both the store and the race track are public accommodations.

To put it another way, if I'm a conservative Christian and had to go to the Hindu temple to get a bulletin to be my coupon, even if I “don't have to sit through services” that is discrimination.

It's absolutely wrong! You cannot tell someone to go into a place they find immoral, repugnant, or against their religious or philosophical beliefs to get a coupon and then claim you're not discriminating, because “anyone can do it!”

That's just fucking stupid to pretend it is anything other than christian privilege. Because they're so used to being the majority religion, and used to people who aren't christian just not talking, they think they can do whatever they wish. Wait a moment, that sounds eerily familiar, doesn't it?

The thing is, if this was a Kosher or a Halal restaurant and they offered a discount on Friday or Saturday, “come in after Synagogue/Mosque have lunch!” christians would be picketing the place. They would shake signs that were hilariously misspelt. Their signs would be missing apostrophes, and use the wrong “your”. There would be accusations of persecution and socialism and fascism and communism! [Always all three, usually thrown at the same person, and no, I don't get it either.] 

It'd be bedlam, and pretty god-damned funny, too. They'd be shouting slogans like “Freedom of Religion means you, too!” and “Down with Tyranny!” even though they wouldn't be able to spell tyranny.*

Never mind that christians make up the majority of declared religions in this country, they'd being persecuted if they can't get that discount at that Jewish deli. And they'd be right, it would still be discriminatory.

That's where I think the problem lies: christians are so used to their privilege that they don't see what they are doing clearly. They can't see that when they demand treatment of a certain kind, but can't, or won't, reciprocate they are the ones perpetuating the abuses they claim to be receiving.

Disagreement is not persecution.
Neither is demanding that you follow the law.
Neither is telling you that you're wrong, or explaining how it is so.

Discrimination is treating classes of people differently, merely because they're different classes of people. It's treating someone better or worse because of their race, colour, creed, religion, gender, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation-- or the appearance of any of those things.

Discrimination is not demanding you treat everyone the same, offer the same basic things. That's the law, and it is a moral law. You don't have to like it for it to be a good law... but I would postulate that you might be more suited for living in Iran or ought to hide your KKK membership a little better in order to fit into polite society if you detest equal protection so very much.

Demanding that I be treated the same as a church-goer is a moral demand. I am not less moral or good, I am not more evil, than someone who goes to church every Sunday. In fact, most free-thinkers are extremely moral people, we don't need to be terrified of a God to be good. We are good for the sake of being good. [Ever taken a good look at the so-called "black collar crime" listings? Yeah, those religious people are really moral all right... sorry /sarcasm]

I hope that Pennsylvania fines the fuck out of that restaurant. The owners are wrong, and they know it. They disregarded the letters warning them, over the space of a year! They are self-righteously claiming that they “have better things to worry about” and “can't give the discount to everyone, they have taxes to pay!” [That was quoted in the Fox article during an interview with a local radio station, if you read it, I'm sorry about the Fox part, and the sidebar of stupid.]

They should have listened. It would save them money, and save face. See, their reputation is tattering as they stand there whinging on; in business reputation is everything.

Now, what they could have done that would have been well within the law:

1- Sunrise Coffee Club members get 10% off when coming in between say open and 10am on Sunday. Anyone could get the membership, right? You just have to come in at the ass crack of dawn; most non-christians aren't up that early on Sunday unless we have to be.

2- word of mouth. Anyone coming in between 12:30 and 3pm on Sunday gets a 10% discount. I have heard several pastors say, “my family and I going over to Such-and-Such Eatery after services and you're all welcome to come along! They have a great Daily Special!” There is nothing illegal about that.

3- If they are determined to continue the discounts, then the best solution, I think is just a simple “10% off on everything on Sundays/Sunday Freebie” If they're religious people they would be well within their rights to say, “hey, this is our holy day, we want to celebrate it with you, so we're giving you a free slice of pie, or 10% off, or whatever.” No one would complain, no one would be discriminated against. It would be legal, lawful and moral.

I've found, however, that the louder someone tends to be about religious rights, the less moral they tend to be. Case in point, a selection of quotes from the several articles. I haven't edited them for spelling or grammar, but I have edited for length. So feel free to laugh at the misspelt complaints. I did, otherwise I'd cry at the lack of education and logical arguments. Oh, America....All emphasis added:

"This is sickening. One man's self righteousness is ruining it for everyone. He's upset over their discount for religious people, but not upset at the 12 and under eat free, etc? I still hold to my beliefs that religion, especially Christianity, is prosecuted the most for their beliefs."

" a business owner, I can establish my own terms and conditions, I can in effect serve who I want, if I wish to establish a 10% discount for a particular client base that is up to me...." [note: first ellipsis in original, second edits out a strange and hard to understand rant about discounts and his business]

“Here's what I would do, [Person being spoken to redacted for privacy]:
I would offer a pulled-pork sandwich to ANYONE who can offer an accurate quote from the Koran.
How about that?”

"It's NOT discrimination b/c any atheist can walk up to a church and pick up a program! You can even pick a program up at the door and not even walk in. This way you don't even have to worry about your spirit being stirred from listening to a sermon about your false beliefs! It doesn't get any easier than that! This is nothing more than an atheist agenda!" [I dunno what false beliefs have to do with a bulletin, or a discount, but hey, exclamation points and atheist agenda!]

One of the best retorts was:
The irony is a discount to people with a flyer from a mosque would draw a different view from many people.

This is just a couple comments made by a couple readers. The comments on the articles range from “fuck you and your atheism” to “See, see see! Here's another way christians are being mistreated and persecuted!” to “the owners have free speech!!!” It goes down hill from there. 

Sadly the people commenting don't understand, or choose not to understand, that discrimination is wrong, but calling someone out on discrimination isn't "reverse discrimination" or some such nonsense. They are supporting actions that are illegal, because it fits their narrow mindset of what is OK, and what isn't-- christians OK, Atheists, no-OK.

Stupid isn't a protected class. Religion/creed/philosophical beliefs are. Age, sex, gender and in some places sexual identity and orientation are too. But stupid, ignorance, morons, they aren't...

It's a damned shame, too. Something so easy to fix that has gone on for so long.

All because “I'm an American and I can do as I wish”...

Well, I'm an American, too. And I think she's a selfish, stupid, ignorant cunt.

Up up up... freedom of speech, remember?

I'll talk more about the Civil Rights Act another time.

*I was looking for it, and couldn't find it. Once I saw a photo of a “Down with tranny” sign, complete with little Gadsden flag, that was from a teabagging event. They meant “Down with Tyranny”, but that's not what they wrote. It was so wrong, and so fucking funny! If I can find it, I'll share it later, it was so awesome in its awfulness.


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