Winston-Salem diner owner ends ‘praying in public’ discount after scrutiny, pressure

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A local diner that received attention from around the world for giving a discount to those who took a moment to pray, meditate or simply say “thank you” before their meal will stop offering the discount due to the threat of a lawsuit.

A group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Wisconsin stirred the pot Tuesday by releasing a letter accusing Mary’s Gourmet Diner owner Mary Haglund of violating the Civil Rights Act by denying “customers who do not pray and nonbelievers the right to ‘full and equal’ enjoyment of Mary’s Gourmet Diner.”

Haglund said she had no idea her discount was breaking the law.

“This is not a religious thing, this is a thankful thing,” Haglund told FOX8 last week. “It’s just an attitude of gratitude.”

Knowing the Freedom from Religion Foundation has sued others and won, she decided on Wednesday to stop offering the discount. The discount is something the diner has offered for years but following attention on social media last week, Haglund said she received both positive and negative calls regarding the discount. The discount was never promoted prior to the media attention last week.

“We don’t tell the people they’re getting a discount,” Haglund told FOX8 last week. “We’ve never promoted it. We just present the ticket.”

Haglund told FOX8 on Wednesday her intent was always a positive one, never meaning to offend anyone.

“It’s a shame that she tried to do something good for people, no matter what it be, and she gets pressure for it,” said patron Andrew Lazare.

Supporters of Haglund say discount or not, one thing that will continue here is giving thanks.

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