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On the Moral Right to Provide Discounts Exclusively to Churchgoers

Steven Rose, a Christian owner of a pizza parlor in Arkansas, recently received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) stating that the 10 percent discount he offers to customers who bring in a church bulletin is unlawful, the New York Daily News reports.

According to the FFRF, the discount excludes nonchurchgoers, thereby violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibitions against “discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.” But Rose is correct in pointing out that, as a private business owner, he has a right to offer discounts as he sees fit. His business belongs to him, not to the FFRF, nor to the U.S. government, nor to nonchurchgoers, nor to anyone else—and the terms he offers, including any discounts he offers, are for him to decide, not for others to decide.

As Rose told the News, “It was a straight-up marketing tool to give a discount to people I love and care about, and have them come in and have lunch with me.” That some people are offended by his marketing tool has no bearing on his moral right to use it. And if the 1964 Civil Rights Act can be read to imply that Rose has broken the law, then the law should be changed to conform with the only moral purpose of law, which is to protect people’s rights to act on their judgment, to use their property as they see fit, and to contract with others voluntarily.

Rose has not violated anyone’s rights. Those who do not qualify for the church bulletin discount are free to pay full price for Rose’s pizza or to take their business elsewhere. And members of FFRF are free to criticize Rose, to refrain from doing business at his restaurant, and to encourage others to do the same.

As Rose correctly sums up: “If I’m more attuned to different groups than other groups, it’s my business . . . and it’s my right.”

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