Oh, good grief. Winston-Salem restaurant owner Mary Haglund offered a random 15-percent discount to customers who pray in public, and cyberspace warriors, the mass media and so-called religious freedom activists all but lost their lunch.
To which we say: It was a Winston-Salem thing. But being a voice for varied communities of good people who generally accept and even welcome each other, as well as misguided strangers, we’ll try to explain to the world what went on at Haglund’s restaurant. Mary’s Gourmet Diner on Trade Street is a place where people of all stripes, including people of faith and people no faith, gather to share good food and stories in a sort of community communion.
Haglund, concerned about the threat of a lawsuit from out-of-town, backed off the discount Wednesday. But we don’t believe she should have felt pressured to do so by anybody.
We see this as a matter of religious freedom. And as a matter of Mary, both in the sense that this is her business in every sense of the word and in the sense of you have to understand her. In a town where Christians are the generally friendly majority, Haglund says her own beliefs are not tied to any particular faith. But she is “a very spiritual person,” she told the Journal’s Wesley Young, and she does say a prayer of thanks for her food.
Here’s how she put it on the Facebook page that bears her restaurant’s name:
… I will say that it is not a “policy,” it’s a gift we give at random to customers who take a moment before their meal. This could be prayer or just a moment to breathe & push the busyness of the world away. Who you talk to or meditate on etc. is your business. I have lived in a 3rd world country, there are people starving. We live in a country with an abundance of beautiful food. I NEVER take that for granted. It warms my heart to see people with an attitude of gratitude.
Haglund told the Journal: “People are just jumping to this conclusion that it is a Christian thing. It is not tied to Christianity. It could be something spiritual between you and your idea of what God is, or it could be you in a moment being grateful to the universe.”
She added that she had for years allowed her staff to give discounts to customers who pause before their meal, whether to say a prayer or have a moment of silence. And they’ve never promoted the practice, she said. It was one of several discounts they offer, she said.
The story of the practice went viral after Christian recording artist Dan Bremnes put it on his Facebook page. The critics came out, and so did supporters of the practice. It’s been much the same locally.
Except here, no matter how people felt about the practice, they know Haglund and they know her restaurant. Most of them will keep patronizing it. We sure will.
We’ll let Haglund, from her Facebook page, have the last word:
“Peace, love & happy eating!”
— Winston-Salem Journal