SEARCY, Ark. – The Christian owner of an Arkansas pizza parlor received a warning letter from atheists for offering discounts to customers who bring church bulletins to the restaurant.
Steven Rose is owner of Bailey’s Pizza—a small, down-home restaurant in Searcy, Arkansas. The pizza parlor offers customers an old-fashioned ambiance, something Rose describes as an “old school country atmosphere.”
Rose, a Christian, says his restaurant, which opened last month, features a wall with a variety of verses from the Bible.
“God is the center of our lives,” a plaque on the Scripture wall says, “so our scripture wall is at the center of Bailey’s Pizza!”
“Take time to read the scriptures others have written,” the plaque continues, “and if you want—ask your waitress for use of our markers to add your own.”
During a weekend last month, Rose invited the restaurant’s patrons to bring church bulletins to the pizza shop on Sunday and receive a 10% discount.
“Happy Sunday, y’all!” a July 20 post on the restaurant’s Facebook page stated. “Bring in your church bulletin and receive 10% off. We open at 11:00. Have a blessed day.”
Several customers reacted positively to the special offer.
“Keep up with your positive atmosphere!” one commenter commended.
“Keep it up,” another chimed in. “I love y’all are doing this. Next time I am in town, I will be eating here.”
However, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an out-of-state atheistic group, learned of the 10% churchgoers discount and promptly mailed a warning letter to Rose. The FFRF letter claimed the pizza parlor’s discount was a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits establishments—including restaurants—from discriminating against customers.
“All persons,” the law states, “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, … without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”
Elizabeth Cavell, an attorney for FFRF, further explained the atheists’ position to KTHV.
“The law requires places of public accommodation to offer their services to customers without regard to race, color, religion or national origin,” Cavell argued.
However, Rose says the church bulletin discount was never designed to prohibit anyone from visiting the restaurant. In fact, a sign in front of the restaurant announcing the discount said, “All are loved and welcome Sundays—10% off with church bulletin.”
“It has nothing to do with excluding anybody,” Rose contended. “It’s not specific to any church. It’s another way to bring people in and make them feel welcome.”
Rose says the church bulletin discount is just one of the many special offers he makes available to customers of Bailey’s Pizza.
“I offer discounts to others too,” he said, “like college students, teachers, military, police, and senior citizens.”
Overall, Rose believes the FFRF has turned his restaurant’s well-meant discount into “an ugly thing.”
“I didn’t want to exclude anyone,” he told reporters. “It was just like giving a discount to the Boy Scouts or the military and [FFRF] made it an ugly thing.”
“Short of [a judge’s ruling] there’s nothing that they’re going to say to me that makes me waver on what I believe,” Rose added.
As previously reported, a Pennsylvania restaurant agreed in late 2012 to offer atheists special discounts after facing criticism for offering a church bulletin discount. Then, two weeks ago, a diner in North Carolina discontinued a discount for patrons who pray, after the FFRF threatened legal action.