A Pennsylvania restaurant owner must offer her church-goer discount to diners of all denominations, even atheists, according to a recent ruling from state officials.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wisc.-based atheist group, filed a complaint earlier this year against Prudhomme's Lost Cajun Kitchen demanding that owner Sharon Prudhomme stop offering a Sunday discount to church-goers who brought in a flyer or bulletin from their congregation.
“I call it a bunch of hoo-ha over nothing,” Prudhomme told The Huffington Post. She refused to remove the promotion or satisfy requests from officials to change the deal's use of “church” to “faith-oriented group.”
Prudhomme, whose uncle through marriage is the well-known New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme, said she never intended to exclude anyone. Had a customer showed up carrying a non-Christian bulletin, they would have received the same 10 percent discount, regardless of the state's order, she claimed.
State officials finalized a settlement in late September that allowed Prudhomme's promotion to continue as long as the restaurant honors publications from "any group oriented around the subject of religious faith," including atheist groups.
Meanwhile, Prudhomme said her battle caused an uptick in sales and incited an outpouring of support from First Amendment lawyers, including Randall Wenger of the Independence Law Center, who represented her free of charge.
With Wenger's help, Prudhomme has stood by her refusal to amend the language in the offer, which remains unchanged on the restaurant's website. “To me, a mosque is a church; a [Jewish] temple is a church,” she said. “I consider the word to just mean a place where someone goes to honor their religion.”
But to most Muslims and Jews, church means a place where Christians worship, said Shannon Powers, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which issued the settlement order.
"What some folks aren't recognizing is that the term church excludes some religions," Powers told HuffPost. "If Prudhomme continues to use that term in her promotion, and it's determined by the commission's lawyers that, in so doing, she's breaching the terms of the settlement, we could seek enforcement in court."
This article has been updated to include comment from Shannon Powers, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.