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Winston-Salem restaurant in prayer discount dispute prepared to fight back

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Wesley Young/Journal

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — It might not be too late to get a discount for saying a prayer at Mary’s Gourmet Diner, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. 

Co-owner Shama Blalock said Thursday that the restaurant could bring back the discounts, depending on whether her mother can be convinced that that the discounts might be legal after all.

Blalock’s mother, Mary Haglund, is the Mary in the restaurant’s name and is co-owner of the diner with Blalock.Winston-Salem restaurant gives 15 percent discount for praying in public, photo of receipt goes viral

The restaurant said Wednesday that it would end the prayer discounts, after a Wisconsin-based group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a letter to Haglund saying that the discount was illegal.

The prayer discount went viral on the Internet last week when some customers posted their receipt on their Facebook pages. The receipt showed a 15 percent discount for “Praying in Public.”

Haglund received bundles of both praise and criticism for the discount, which the restaurant had been quietly giving for years on a more or less random basis.

The restaurant posted a notice in its window on Wednesday apologizing to anyone who may have been offended by the offering of prayer discounts, and stating that the discounts would no longer be given because they were illegal and could lead to a lawsuit.

Blalock said that “people have picked up our cause for us” since that announcement was posted, and that she is being told “that I am not breaking the law” to offer the discount.

“So, when we can convince my mother that we are not breaking the law, that we are exercising our freedoms, our own as a privately owned business, it s going to be a gift that’s given back to me, to give to my customers,” Blalock said.

Blalock didn’t say who has offered the legal interpretation that might support the giving of discounts, but said she has been contacted by a number of people offering help. Haglund could not be reached Thursday evening to be asked whether those offers might sway her decision.

A quick search of the Internet shows various outcomes in cases involving a private business and religious expression.

For instance, a restaurant in Pennsylvania was taken before the state’s human rights commission for giving discounts to people who brought along a church bulletin on Sundays, but the commission ruled that it could continue to do so as long as it gave discounts to people who brought pamphlets relating in any way to faith, including atheism.

The co-founder and co-president of the Freedom from Faith Foundation, Annie Laurie Gaylor, said that her group has stopped a festival from offering discounts to people who had attended Mass, and added that she was concerned about another festival planning to do the same thing.

Mary’s Gourmet Diner did not have a policy of giving discounts for prayer, but left it up to the servers. Haglund said the discount was not meant to promote any particular faith and could be earned by anyone simply taking time out to express what Haglund called “an attitude of gratitude.”


  • merlynleroy

    Religious-based discounts have been struck down by the courts in the past, usually in the form of church bulletin discounts. Restaurants offering such discounts have to extend the discount to anyone bringing in any kind of bulletin, not just church bulletins. A restaurant can’t offer a discount only to people who pray.

  • lookin up

    From where I stand looking at this world today someone needs to pray ! So don’t riducule someone for doing what you fail to do

    • No Hope For Change

      Poor Damon seems to think science is FACT when in reality much of it is theory. If you actually believe the verbal diarrhea you just spoke about science “has shown” non-sense about prayee magic blah blah you prove that atheists are not immune from being illogical unreasonable and lacking intellect. You sound no different than the types that pretend to know about the Bible and scripture and the interpretation only you pretend to know about what science has “shown”. You should join that Tom Cruise Science Church you smarter than thou you.

    • JT

      Hate to burst your bubble, No Hope, but scientific theories have been tested. Superstitious theories have not. Not all theories are created equally. Further, no need for litigation here–rational, reasonable people, “prosecute” with your wallet. Don’t eat at this establishment. Or, better yet, show up with a prayer rug, face Mecca, pray, and ask for free tea. Dollars to doughnuts say you won’t get that discount. Which brings up one more thought–is praying b/c you will get a discount the kind of thing that J.C. tore up the temple over?

    • Art

      Lovely opinion. But I think the world need less smug, douchey intellectuals telling people how to exercise their 1st amendment rights. I will concede that the world also needs less religious douchery. Being offended by prayers? Really?! How can u b offended in something u don’t believe. Are u offended by letters to Santa? Easter eggs?

    • Damon Arial

      You can be, but if you’re so petty to not be proud of my great country, there are others you can move to. Nobody is forcing you to love my country or be proud of it. If you think prayers, breaking the law, or superstitious magik make a better American, you might need to re-evaluate your stance on citizenry.

  • dianna smith

    Americans need prayer in their lives more than ever. That is not what Mary’s Diner does. It recognizes people who are grateful for what they have been given- gratitude!!! This is a lovely place with people who treat every customer as a friend,or in some cases(ie..special occasions) as family! I know I went there for my birthday and was treated like an honored guest. For those who say they will no longer visit Mary’s I say- it is truly your loss. These people go way out of their way to make your stay with them like you are at home-and are truly welcomed!!

  • Diane W

    Why protest a discount for praying? Why doesn’t someone have the right to be acknowleded for praying in public? Why doesn’t a business owner have the right to give a discount to whomever he/she pleases? Are you jealous that you didn’t get a discount? Or because you don’t pray or believe in God, you think no one else should either? It is sad that Christians are losing their rights.

    • dewey

      what rights have you lost…you still go to church, check……you can still observe your religion and its holidays, check….I don’t buy the doG/preying bit, but you, as a christstain, have lost no rights…..the ability to include your doG in everything YOU do, is not exactly a loss of rights

  • Prayin'

    I have never been to this restaurant but I will now make it my business to give my financial support; discount or no discount.

  • Helium

    People seem to complain about everything nowadays….get over it people, this is the US where you can freely do whatever the heck you want – INCLUDING PRAY! So all the haters or complainers can shut up and check themselves.

    • dewey

      the issue isn’t so much about preying…..they took issue with it because the discount wasn’t being applied across the board…makes no sense ultimately, but again….advertise the discount on a small whiteboard, just beyond the kitchen doors….if you prey or don’t, then it’s your choice

  • dewey

    I say she should put up a sign advertising the discounts, inside the restaurant….but make the writing so small or perhaps just hide it in plain sight…no one takes the time to read anything that isn’t on Farcebook

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