Jerry's Blog

Atheist Group Goes After Arkansas Pizza Parlor

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is drumming up controversy in Arkansas again–this time over pizza.

You may recall in 2013 FFRF threatened legal action against Conway public schools because school administrators allowed youth pastors to visit students on campus the same way it allowed other visitors to meet with students. The schools (and youth pastors) won that debate; now the group is back, and this time they are going after a private pizzeria in Searcy.

According to KTHV in Little Rock, Bailey’s Pizza of Searcy received a letter from the atheist group after the group learned Bailey’s offered a 10% discount to anyone who brought a church bulletin into the restaurant on Sundays.

Freedom From Religion Foundation claims this discount discriminates against people who do not go to church, and that it violates the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. We feel that argument simply does not hold water. Giving someone a discount because they have a church bulletin with them does not discriminate against atheists any more than giving a senior citizen a discount discriminates against young people. It’s simply another way businesses can attract customers. No one is being denied service because of their faith or lack thereof.

Freedom From Religion Foundation’s argument against Bailey’s Pizza is so bizarre it’s almost laughable. How “religiously neutral” does a business have to be? If Bailey’s prepares all its pizzas in a kitchen with pork products (like pepperoni, for example), that’s liable to prevent people with religious objections to pork from eating there. Is that “discrimination”? No, it simply means “places of public accommodation” (to borrow from the Civil Rights Act) can’t always please every member of the public.

When President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I’m not sure the goal was to stop pizzerias from giving nominal discounts to anyone who walks in with a church bulletin. Giving a discount to someone is not religious discrimination, but trying to tell a business owner his private restaurant must be a religion-free zone arguably is.

Photo Credit: “Flickr – cyclonebill – Kartoffelpizza med rosmarinpesto” by cyclonebill – Kartoffelpizza med rosmarinpesto. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Family Council Releases Two New Policy Briefs on Fayetteville Ordinance

Today Family Council is releasing two new policy briefs on the recently-passed “nondiscrimination” ordinance in Fayetteville (Fayetteville Chapter 119).

The first policy brief analyzes the last-minute amendments adopted by the Fayetteville City Council prior to passing the ordinance.

The second policy brief reexamines the ordinance as a whole and the unintended consequences it carries.

Of particular importance are that the ordinance:

  • Still opens churches, private schools, and religious people who own businesses to the threat of criminal prosecution;
  • Opens some ministers, individually, to the possibility of criminal prosecution; and
  • Still does not prevent a man who claims to be a woman from using the women’s restrooms, showers, locker rooms, or changing areas at businesses and public locations.

Click here to read Family Council’s analysis of the amendments made to Fayetteville Chapter 119 prior to passage.

Click here to read Family Council’s new policy brief on Fayetteville Chapter 119.

Understanding the Amendments to the Fayetteville Ordinance

A Further Analysis of Chapter 119

Overview: On August 20, 2014, the Fayetteville City Council passed asexual-orientation and gender-identity nondiscrimination ordinance (Chapter 119). Proponents of the ordinance added two amendments to the proposal in an effort to alleviate some concerns over the measure’s unintended consequences. The amendments, however, fail to address many of the flaws in the proposal.

Church Property Amendment

Amendment 1: “Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed to require any religious or denominational institution or association to open its tax exempt property or place of worship to any individual or group for any ceremony or meeting, except for any activity or service that is supported in whole or part by public funds.”

Analysis: This amendment partly addresses one of the many ways Proposed Chapter 119 restricts religious liberty in Fayetteville. It generally prevents church property from being used, for example, for a same-sex wedding or reception. However, it fails to address the following:

  • Churches still face the threat of prosecution. This amendment does not exempt churches altogether. At best, it exempts church property. Churches can still be forced to employ a gay or transgender person for “secular” job positions (e.g. bookkeeper, receptionist, etc.). Even with this amendment,a church still faces the threat of criminal prosecution simply for wanting to employ people who share and abide by the faith that church proclaims.
  • Ministers still face the threat of prosecution, individually. This ordinance affects ministers who officiate weddings or ceremonies for non-church-members, because they are offering a public service. This amendment protects church property, but not the ministers employed by the church. This means ministers could still be forced to perform same-sex ceremonies on non-church property (e.g. a park, private wedding chapel, etc.). This opens ministers to the possibility of prosecution simply for declining to perform a ceremony contradictory their religious convictions.
  • Businesspeople are still open to prosecution. Across the nation, florists, bakers, photographers, wedding venue owners, and similar businesspeople have faced litigation and prosecution for declining to take part in same-sex ceremonies. This amendment does not protect religious businesspeople who object to hosting or serving in a same-sex ceremony.
  • Private schools are not exempted. This amendment does not protect a private school’s ability to employ people who share its religious views or safeguard any of its other religious liberties.