September 5, 2001

"Missionary"" Discounts at Utah Restaurants

SALT LAKE CITY--The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said today that it has sent letters to the State Attorney General's Office and the state Restaurants Association advising that the practice of offering "missionary" discounts at local eateries and retail businesses violates Utah's non-discrimination law. 

"Conferring a discount on the basis of religion is clearly illegal discrimination under the law," said ACLU staff attorney Janelle Eurick. "The practice ostracizes the religious minority in Utah and perpetuates feelings that non-Mormons are not as welcome in our communities or business establishments." 

The ACLU became aware of the practice when Judy Bruyette of Orem contacted them saying that she was denied a 15 percent ""missionary"" discount at Rodizio Grill in Orem. 

Bruyette said that a priest and deacon of her church accompanied her to the restaurant, but they were told that only Latter Day Saints (LDS) missionaries and their families were offered this discount because they were the majority religion in Utah. Other local restaurants such as Sizzler and Frontier Pies have offered similar "missionary" or "LDS" discounts in Utah County. 

"This is just like offering a 15 percent discount for whites in the South. Just because they are the majority does not mean that a business can discriminate against the minority community," Bruyette said to the ACLU in her letter. 

The Utah Public Accommodations Law, Utah Code Ann. § 13-7-3, provides that all persons in the state "are entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, goods and services in all business establishments . . . without discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, or national origin." 

Under this law, the Attorney General is responsible for investigating claims of discrimination based on religion in local business establishments. 

The ACLU has reason to believe this practice is widespread and that several retail establishments offer similar discounts. 

"We are contacting the Attorney General's office to investigate this matter. We hope business establishments will end this hurtful practice in the face of an investigation and before the need arises for civil rights damages actions," said Eurick.

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