Last weekend while out sightseeing, I walked past a restaurant that advertised free meals for children under 10. I envisioned a family with several small children, and the parents paying for only two meals. What a nice deal, and a great way to pull in tourists, I thought. The restaurant probably offered a discount for seniors as well. I don’t qualify for either discount. Both discriminate in that they make a distinction in favor of or against a person on the basis of group, class, or category. In that sense, the restaurant discriminates against me.

Most people don’t have a problem with private businesses offering discounts based on age or even sex. Raise your hand if you’ve ever attended “ladies night” at a bar or club where women were admitted free. Let’s say a government facility offered a discount based on sex. The legal foundation becomes shaky. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment bars the state (or a state actor) from discriminating on the basis of race or sex.

What if a private business offered a discount based on race? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits racial discrimination in public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, theaters, etc.). Does the same apply to a business that offers a discount based on religion?

John Wolff, an 80-year-old Jew-turned-Catholic-turned-atheist in Pennsylvania, filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission against Prudhomme’s Lost Cajun Kitchen in Columbia, Pa., which offers a 10 percent discount to patrons who present a current church bulletin on Sundays. According to the York Daily Record, the man has never eaten at the restaurant. He read about the discount on the restaurant’s website.

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