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View Diary: Don't go to church? God hates you and Denny's does too (240 comments)

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  •  A similar practice was challenged in Maryland (3+ / 0-)
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    The Hagerstown Suns are a baseball team in Maryland -- a Class A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Suns held a "church bulletin night." Anyone carrying a church newsletter of bulletin were admitted to an 1998-APR-12 Easter Sunday game with a discount on the regular admission fee. Carl Silverman is a local agnostic. He told the ticket clerk that he was "not religious" and was informed that without a church newsletter, he would have to pay the full price of admission. Silverman successfully brought a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations, claiming that the Suns were a public accommodation. Although the Commission ruled in Silverman's favor, the Suns refused to settle the complaint out of court by paying a token fine and committing to ending the practice of church bulletin nights in the future. Suns General Manager David Blenckstone declared, "We have never required fans to have a religious affiliation to receive our special Sunday discount. We only ask that they provide a church bulletin."  


    The judge ruled for the Suns. Her rationale was that Maryland's law prohibited practices that would "deny, refuse, or withhold from" anyone access to a public accommodation. In this instance, Silverman was not refused entry; he was merely charged extra because he was not religious. She also ruled that it was not "an impermissibly heavy burden" for an agnostic to obtain a church bulletin from somewhere in order to get the discount.


    The decision was expected to be appealed. However a settlement was reached through negotiations. The Suns agreed to stop the special "church bulletin" promotion and replace it with a "Sunday Family Bulletin Day." Anyone bringing any publication from "any church, house of worship, civic or nonprofit" group will be admitted at a discount. An attorney for the plaintiff, Michael Berman, said: "We consider this a total victory for our position.  The Suns have agreed to discontinue the use of 'church bulletin' as the name for any and all promotions...Our position has always been that when a business opens its door to the public, under the public accommodation law that business has to open its door to everyone without discrimination on the basis of religion, race or gender," Berman declared. We believe we have achieved that objective." Dwight Sullivan, an attorney for the ACLU Maryland Office said: "The agreement we've got now is important, especially since the use of the word 'church' suggests a limitation to Christians.  So, the description will no longer exclude minority religions, and equally important it doesn't discriminate against atheists or agnostics since it's no longer restricted to religious bulletins."

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