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August 8, 2014 6

North Carolina Restaurant Discontinues Praying Customer Discount

Last week a North Car­olina diner’s reported four-year-old 15% cus­tomer dis­count for “pray­ing in pub­lic” before meals gained wide­spread atten­tion after a patron’s receipt show­ing the rebate was posted on Face­book.  This atten­tion was also the discount’s demise.  After mul­ti­ple news reports appeared, com­men­ta­tors and orga­ni­za­tions began spec­u­lat­ing that the prac­tice was ille­gal, and the diner ended the discount. north-carolina-restaurant-discount

Fed­eral pub­lic accom­mo­da­tion laws, which cover restau­rants and din­ers, pro­hibit unequal treat­ment of cus­tomers in the enjoy­ment of goods and ser­vices based on reli­gion, as well as on race, color, or nation ori­gin.  The dis­count may have vio­lated the law because it effec­tively favored reli­gious cus­tomers over non-believers or other cus­tomers who — for what­ever rea­son — choose not to pray in public.

The mar­ket­place brings together Amer­i­cans of all races, reli­gions and back­grounds.  In addi­tion to likely being ille­gal, com­mer­cial dis­counts based on reli­gious prac­tices are divi­sive, anti­thet­i­cal to our plu­ral­is­tic soci­ety, and sim­ply an ill-advised busi­ness prac­tice.  The diner did the right thing in dis­con­tin­u­ing the dis­count it was offering.

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August 7, 2014 0

Legislative Prayer Ruling Does Not Permit Prayers by Local Lawmakers

In the recent Greece v. Gal­loway deci­sion, the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the types of open­ing prayers or invo­ca­tions that may be given at pub­lic meet­ings of leg­isla­tive bod­ies.  Accord­ing to the Court, clergy or com­mu­nity mem­bers can deliver sec­tar­ian prayers before munic­i­pal and county boards, coun­cils, and com­mis­sions.  How­ever, a fed­eral court in Vir­ginia has just deter­mined that the Greece deci­sion does not give carte blanche for invo­ca­tions by mem­bers of a Board of Super­vi­sors at pub­lic meetings.town-hall-image

Based on the Greece deci­sion, a super­vi­sor asked the court to revoke an order bar­ring sec­tar­ian prayers by Board mem­bers at pub­lic meet­ings.  Due to sig­nif­i­cant fac­tual dif­fer­ences between the Greece deci­sion and this case, Hud­son v. Pitt­syl­va­nia County, the court refused.

In his deci­sion, Judge Michael Urban­ski indi­cated that the Greece decision’s over­ar­ch­ing prin­ci­ple is that gov­ern­ment offi­cials “can­not dic­tate the con­tent of prayers offered at local gov­ern­ment meet­ings.” But that would be the exact result of revok­ing the order.  Unlike the Greece case, hav­ing super­vi­sors offer the invo­ca­tions would deny peo­ple of other faiths that oppor­tu­nity.  Also unlike Greece, super­vi­sors often direct cit­i­zens to par­tic­i­pate in prayers by ask­ing them to stand for invocations.

Based on these fac­tual dis­tinc­tions, the court appro­pri­ately con­cluded that “the active role of the … Board of Super­vi­sors in lead­ing the prayers, and, impor­tantly dic­tat­ing their con­tent, is of con­sti­tu­tional dimen­sion and falls out­side the prayer prac­tices approved in Town of Greece.”

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July 24, 2014 7

Small Protests Around the U.S. Ratchet Up Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

On July 18 and 19, anti-immigrant activists around the coun­try par­tic­i­pated in a series of protests dubbed the “National Day Of Protest­ing Against Immi­gra­tion Reform/Amnesty & Bor­der Surge.” Activists are exploit­ing the cur­rent human­i­tar­ian cri­sis at the bor­der where Cen­tral Amer­i­can chil­dren are flee­ing in order to escape vio­lence in their home countries.

These protests are just the lat­est uptick in anti-immigrant activ­ity, fueled by the anti-immigrant move­ment and far-right media. The sparsely attended protests not only attracted extrem­ists, but many of the activists in atten­dance dis­played signs with extreme rhetoric.

The fol­low­ing is a round-up on some of the extreme rhetoric on dis­play at protests around the coun­try, as reflected in accounts of the ral­lies on social media and in local news outlets:

  • Moosic, Penn­syl­va­nia: Mem­bers of the white suprema­cist group Euro­pean Amer­i­can Action Coali­tion (EAAC) attended a rally in Moosic, Penn­syl­va­nia. EAAC direc­tor, Steve Smith, was present at the event. Smith is a long­time racist with ties to a num­ber of white suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tions. At the Moosic protest, was a sign taped to the over­pass where the protest took place which read, in part, “Ille­gal mes­ti­zos are bring­ing in lep­rosy and scabies…”eaac-protesters-immigration
  • Salem, Ore­gon: Mem­bers of the white suprema­cist polit­i­cal party Amer­i­can Free­dom Party (AFP) attended a rally in Salem, Ore­gon. AFP activist Tyler Cole attended the rally with his wife, Laura. In an inter­view with a local news sta­tion, Laura Cole stated, “Keep Mex­i­cans in Mex­ico. Keep European-Americans here, where we are, in our home­land… I think it’s OK for us to be proud that this is our ter­ri­tory.” A ban­ner hang­ing from an over­pass one exit away from the offi­cial Salem protest read, “Diver­sity is a code word for white geno­cide” – a phrase used by white supremacists.
  • New York, NY: Anti-immigrant activists protested out­side of the United Nations build­ing in New York City. One pro­tester held a sign imply­ing that “ille­gals” and “Obama” were “cock­roaches.” Another pro­tester yelled, “Bring us your small­pox, bring us your malaria, your scabies.”
  • Phoenix, Ari­zona : A pro­tester had a sign that read “ille­gals bring disease.”
  • Mari­etta, Geor­gia: A pro­tester held a sign stat­ing, “stop ille­gals and their diseases.”marietta-protest-immigration
  • New Haven, Con­necti­cut: A pro­tester on an over­pass held signs say­ing “stop ter­ror­ists cross­ing our bor­der” and “stop dis­eases cross­ing our border.”
  • Ocala, Florida: Pro­test­ers held signs claim­ing “Obama is a Mus­lim” and “ter­ror­ists and ille­gals treated bet­ter than vets.”
  • Yakima, Wash­ing­ton: A pro­tester held a sign say­ing, “cit­i­zens over ille­gals car­tel and jihadists.”yakima-protest-immigration
  • San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia: One pro­tester held a sign with the Mex­i­can flag which, read, in part, “yes, we sell humans, drugs, pros­ti­tu­tion, the demise of your country.”
  • Tuc­son, Ari­zona: A pro­tester inter­viewed by Tuc­son News Now asserted, “The inva­sion and occu­pa­tion of a sov­er­eign nation… is an act of war.”

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