(Photo: Willow Springs)
A nationwide atheist organization has threatened legal actions against an Arkansas water park over a discount it offers only for churches.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter earlier this month to Willow Springs Water Park of Little Rock regarding the discount, saying it violates the Civil Rights Act.
Stephanie Schmitt, staff attorney for FFRF, explained that if there is a discount it should be available for all groups regardless of their religious views.
"Any promotions should be available to all customers regardless of religious preference or practice on a non-discriminatory basis," wrote Schmitt. "Willow Springs Water Park's restrictive promotional practice favors religious customers, and denies both customers who do not attend church as well as nonbelievers the right to 'full and equal' enjoyment of Willow Springs Water Park."
Lou Ann Ratliff, co-owner of Willow Springs along with her husband David, told The Christian Post that the discount is not discriminatory and contrary to previous media reports, was never discontinued.
"We do not discriminate, we do not keep anyone from entering the park. And church groups of all faiths are allowed in the park," said Ratliff.
"As my husband states, he has two partners in this business: me his wife, and Jesus Christ. We are Christians, we are not ashamed of our faith."
In late July, a child-centered nonprofit called Reaching Our Children and Neighborhoods (ROCAN) had attempted to take advantage of a discount offered at Willow Springs. However, the Willow Springs office said that ROCAN was ineligible for the discount because the nonprofit was not part of a church.
The church discount, Ratliff told CP, was part of an overall marketing effort called "Military Mondays," which was devised as a way to help with the slow business typically found on that day of the week.
"We decided that on Mondays we would allow members of the military and their immediate family, as well as anyone aged 50 or older, or if you had a church group with fifteen or more in it you could come for five dollars per person," said Ratliff.
"The particular group that had wanted to come out had called and asked for the five dollar discount but that they did not want to do it on a Monday and they weren't a church group. So therefore they did not fit into the categories of what we had."
Willow Springs' church discount is not the only business deal that the FFRF has weighed in on and concluded to be discriminatory. In Pennsylvania, a restaurant that offered a discount for any customers who brought in a church bulletin on Sundays had a complaint filed against them by a local atheist activist.
The Lost Cajun Kitchen of Columbia, Pa., is currently fighting a complaint filed before the Pennsylvania Human Relations Committee regarding its discount. The FFRF wrote a letter on behalf of the local who filed the complaint.