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.

Continue Reading on