Last night on The Daily Show correspondent Jordan Klepper, who identified himself as an atheist, talked with an overzealous atheist activist from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) who had threatened to sue a North Carolina diner for offering a discount. According to reports, Mary’s Gourmet Diner would occasionally give a discount to patrons who prayed over their meal which got some attention from the atheist organization. According to Dan Barker of the FFRF, the discount discriminates against atheists who do not pray at all. The Daily Show correspondent defended the diner and pointed out that Barker was being a bit of a “dick” about the whole thing.
Jon Stewart introed the segment by saying that the civil rights fight had been long and arduous, but the next five minutes would be easier than that. It was a subtle jab at the stance that Barker and the FFRF are taking over the diner discount, which is definitely over the top. Barker argued that the 15 percent discount and the civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, were the same thing. He also made an analogy between the discount and genocide which got Klepper’s goat. Overall, Barker does not come off looking good.
In actual fact, the owner of Mary’s Discount diner, Mary Haglund, has never advertised the discount nor did she restrict it only to religious people. As she told Klepper on the show, the discount could be given for a simple moment of introspection or any period of thankfulness for the food about to be consumed. A pair of atheist diners who had received the discount noted that they got the 1 percent off simply for expressing their thanks to the restaurant chef. Haglund told Glenn Beck’s The Blaze that people’s gratefulness for the food she served “touched her heart” and that was part of why she offered the discount. It was not religious in nature at all.
For once, the conservative FOX News and the liberal Daily Show might actually agree on something. Barker and the FFRF are being dicks or, in more measured terms, overzealous activists for an atheist cause that The Daily Show did a good job of showing has nothing to do with actual civil rights. While FOX and Glenn Beck might see it all as part of the culture war and attacks against Christians, the Comedy Central program took a different approach. To Klepper, someone had just decided to be needlessly rude about a non-issue. With the FFRF and FOX News on either side of the argument, this represents a true middle of the road response and probably one of the most reasonable.
The segment was funny, but it was also sad. The owner of Mary’s Discount Diner was attacked and made to feel bad for doing a nice thing that had more to do with appreciating what one has than with adhering to a particular religion. Barker looks pretty ungrateful when that detail is revealed and Klepper did a good job of showing just how over-the-top his reaction was. Even atheists like Klepper and the diner patrons think he is being a dick. Unfortunately, FOX might concentrate on that aspect rather than being as reasonable as The Daily Show was with its talk to an overzealous atheist activist.
Review By Lydia Bradbury