Thursday, July 5, 2012

Restaurant Investigated For Offering Church Discount

A family-owned restaurant in Pennsylvania is under a state discrimination investigation for offering a ten percent discount for diners who present a church bulletin on Sundays.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission confirmed there is an investigation against Prudhomme’s Lost Cajun Kitchen in the town of Columbia. The complaint was filed by John Wolff, (photo to the right) a retired electrical engineer.
“I did this not out of spite, but out of a feeling against the prevailing self-righteousness that stems from religion, particular in Lancaster County,” Wolff said. “I don’t consider it an earth-shaking affair, but in this area in particular, we seem to have so many self-righteous religious people, so it just annoys me.”

According to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, a restaurant is classified as a public accommodation.
That means restaurants are not allowed to discriminate based on religion, among other rules.

Sharon Prudhomme, (photo to the left) (related somehow to Paul Pruhomme) says she’s not discriminating against anybody and plans on fighting the charges.
“What freaks me out is the state of Pennsylvania is basically agreeing with this guy,” Prudhomme complained, “We’re just a mom and pop. We’re not some big chain like the Olive Garden.”
Prudhomme said the trouble started in April of 2011 when she received the first of several letters from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. 
The FFRF is a Wisconsin-based organization of “more than 17,000 freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and skeptics,” so says its website.
The FFRF demanded that she stop giving discounts to patrons who brought in a Sunday church bulletin.
“I just filed it and blew off the other letters,” Prudhomme said. “I said I have no intention of taking it off the website.”
Last Friday the restaurant was served with a 16-page complaint from the state of Pennsylvania – accusing her of discrimination.
“I’m an American,” Prudhomme said. “This is America. This is my business and we’re not breaking any laws.”
She said a representative from the state suggested that she should compromise and sign an agreement that she would offer discounts to any civic organization in the town.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute – you’re asking my husband and I to give anybody coming through my door a discount?’” she recounted. “They said yes.”
“I said, ‘Are you crazy?’”
“We have taxes to pay,” she said. “We have utility bills, payroll, mortgages and they’re expecting me to give everyone a discount?”
Prudhomme said that’s just not going to happen.
“This is our business,” she said. “We’re the ones paying the taxes. We need the people coming in. Our life is in this – and then to have someone come along and tell me what I can do and what I can’t do?”
She wondered if their other discounts might be considered discriminatory — like the one on Tuesday night – where kids under 12 get to eat free. Or what about the senior discount?
“Could someone under 65 complain?” she asked.

Wolf said that he discovered the church discount on the privately owned restaurant’s website.
“That rubbed me a bit the wrong way,” he told the online publication. “It’s not a big deal in itself and I have no animosity towards Prudhomme’s, but I do bear a grudge against a religious right that seems to intrude on our civil rights.”

If the commission decides there’s enough evidence to the complaint, it could be recommended for a public hearing.
If the restaurant owners are found to be in violation, it’s unclear what would happen next.