SEARCY, Ark. — The Christian owner of an Arkansas pizza parlor is not backing down after a prominent atheist activist organization sent a warning letter claiming that its church bulletin discount promotion was unlawful as atheists could not qualify.
As previously reported, Bailey’s Pizza, owned by Steven Rose, opened in Searcy last month, and is in appearance is clearly a Christian-based establishment.
“God is the center of our lives,” a plaque on the pizza parlor’s Scripture wall states, “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.”
Shortly after the pizza parlor opened, Rose invited the restaurant’s patrons to bring church bulletins to the restaurant on Sunday and receive a 10% discount.
“Happy Sunday, y’all!” a July 20 post on Bailey Pizza’s Facebook page stated. “Bring in your church bulletin and receive 10% off. We open at 11:00. Have a blessed day.”
While some responded positively to the offer, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an out-of-state atheist group, mailed a warning letter to Rose, stating that the discount was unlawful. 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.
“The law requires places of public accommodation to offer their services to customers without regard to race, color, religion or national origin,” FFRF attorney Elizabeth Cavell told local television station KTHV.
However, Rose says the church bulletin discount was never designed to prohibit anyone from eating at the restaurant.
“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, like college students, teachers, military, police, and senior citizens,” he said. “It was just like giving a discount to the Boy Scouts or the military and [FFRF] made it an ugly thing.”
After word of the matter became public, some took to Bailey’s Facebook page to express their views, including one unidentified individual who made a bomb threat against the pizza parlor.
“Better get the bomb squad out” and “stand fast and get blown up quicker” were among the phrases in the online comment, which was filed with police.
Now, the Christian legal organization Advocates for Faith and Freedom is defending Bailey’s Pizza, as it sent a letter to FFRF declaring the pizza parlor’s right to offer the discount.
“Bailey’s does not turn any customers away, or provide inferior service to customers who do not hold the same Christian beliefs and worldview as its owner. What Bailey’s does do, however, is implement different promotions to attract customers to the restaurant,” the letter stated. “There is no violation of either federal or state anti-discrimination laws covering public acconìmodations under these circumstances.”
The organization pointed to the ruling in Silverman v. Hagerstown Suns Baseball Club, in which it was declared that a ballpark did not violate anti-discrimination laws when it offered discounted tickets to those who presented church bulletins.
Despite pressure from opponents, Advocates for Faith and Freedom says that Bailey’s Pizza is flourishing.
“[T[he majority of the responses to the promotion have been positive,” it stated. “Bailey’s Pizza has received enthusiastic support from the local community and around the country. Some people have come from other states to dine at Bailey’s Pizza and show their support. One Pennsylvania gentleman purchased 150 dollars’ worth of pizza each day for a week, for delivery to different organizations, such as the police and fire departments.”