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Posted 10 Sep 2001   For week ended September 07, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 08Sep01

By Kent Larsen

ACLU Says Missionary Discounts Illegal

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- After a Catholic woman complained about discounts available to LDS missionaries in Utah restaurants, the American Civil Liberties Union has called the discounts illegal and asked the Utah Attorney General to look into the practice. The woman, Judy Bruyette, complained after eating at Rodizio Grill in Orem on a Wednesday. The restaurant refused to give her and a Catholic priest eating with her the same 15% discount it offered to LDS missionaries and their families on Wednesdays.

The ACLU is calling the discounts illegal because the Utah Public Accommodations law, which is similar to laws in most US states, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion or gender in "public accommodations," such as restaurants and hotels. Bruyette says that the discounts benefit the majority over the minority, "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."

But the practice of giving discounts to LDS missionaries is widespread in Utah, including in restaurants and clothing stores and other retailers used by missionaries before entering the Church's Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.

Ivan Utrera, owner of Rodizio Grill, says that the discount was simply meant to draw in customers, "We give discounts to many different groups, senior citizens, students; we have a 'date night.' " He says that when he learned of the controversy over the discount, he changed his restaurant's policy to include clergy from all denominations. But he says that the original policy wasn't meant to offend anyone, "There was no ill intention at any point," said Utrera, who is originally from Brazil. "If it is against the law, we want to comply with the law. I am a foreigner. I am a minority myself. I know what it is like."

Stuart Christensen, co-owner of the Mr. Mac clothing stores that are popular among LDS missionaries, says his store's discount is already open to missionaries and clergy of other denominations, "We don't promote it in any way through our advertisements, but we do offer discounts," Christensen said. "They are not specifically for LDS missionaries, though. We've given discounts to Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptist missionaries, Rabbis, pastors and priests. We've tried to be careful," he said. "Knowing that the dominant religion is LDS, we haven't wanted to ostracize anyone."

But the ACLU says these policies don't go far enough, because they favor the religious over the non-religious. "It doesn't solve the problem that non-religious people will not receive a discount at these restaurants," said Janelle Eurick, ACLU spokesperson. "I really can't think of a non-arbitrary reason for offering this discount. If they want to draw missionaries to their restaurants on Wednesdays, they can offer a 15 percent discount to everyone who walks through their door."

The ACLU has sent letters on the issue to the Utah Attorney General's office and to the Utah Restaurant Association. A spokesperson for Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (who is also an LDS Church member) said he has not yet seen the letter.


'LDS discounts' illegal?
Deseret News 6Sep01 T4
By Jenifer K. Nii: Deseret News business writer
ACLU says specials for missionaries are biased, against law

Missionary Discount Is Discriminatory, Charges Catholic
Salt Lake Tribune 6Sep01 T4
By Rich Vosepka: Associated Press Writer

ACLU protests discounts given LDS missionaries
Deseret News 5Sep01 T4

Suit calls missionary dining discount unfair
Provo UT Daily Herald (AP) 6Sep01 T4
By Rich Vosepka: Associated Press Writer
Suit calls missionary dining discount unfair


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