The John 3:16 discount

by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Wednesday, October 12, 2011, at 5:14 pm

Would you recite a Bible verse for a discount on an oil change? If so, Charlie Whittington, owner of a Kwik Kar Lube & Tune in Plano, Texas, has a deal for you. He's offering oil changes for $19.95 to customers who bring in a coupon and recite John 3:16 (see video clip below). Whittington has come under fire for the promotion, with some alleging that he is discriminating against nonbelievers and profiting from religion.

Some customers refused and paid a higher price. Marshall Wei, a Chinese immigrant, objected, asking, "Why should I be compelled to quote something I do not feel comfortable to quote?" But Whittington remains committed to the promotion because he says it's a privately owned franchise and he can do whatever he wants to with it. "If I'm standing for what I believe, so be it," he said. "Bring it on."

Is it discrimination? I would be inclined that say "no" on the basis that coupons are not compulsory and no customer is turned away from the business because he or she refuses to recite the verse. Customers like Wei are not compelled to have their oil changed at this particular Kwik Kar. He could have easily taken his business elsewhere. Wei chose not to recite the verse and paid full-price (about $46). In the end, the market will either reward or punish Whittington for mixing the Bible with his business. I say let him bear the consequences of his actions.

But is this a proper use of the Bible? On one hand, you could argue that is it not good to use the Bible as an incentive to make a profit. Mixing Jesus with money can undermine the purpose of Scripture to point people to the work of the Trinity. On the other hand, you could argue that this approach encourages people to think about and discuss Scripture-and anything that gets people to do that is good.

No matter where one comes down on this issue, I think we can all agree that what makes America great is that Whittington has the freedom to bear the market consequences of mixing his religion with a private business, and for that I am grateful.

Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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