Wait – shouldn’t we be able to refuse service to people?

The sound of freedom.

I don’t know what the big deal is about the proposed Arizona law protecting business owners who decline to provide services for ceremonies they believe are wrong.

Quite a few people cheered in 2010 when three Washington, D.C. area hotels refused to host the convention of American Renaissance, a “white nationalist” group that advocates racist and other discriminatory beliefs.

The hotels didn’t refuse service because of who the members of American Renaissance are.  They refused service because of what American Renaissance does.  What American Renaissance does is perfectly legal, and no one disputes that the group has the right to think, publish, and advocate its ideas, which many people (including me) find repellent.  But hotel management decided in each case that it would be objectionable – to some of its other customers, at the very least – to allow their premises to be used for American Renaissance’s gathering.

Should the law have forced the hotels to host the American Renaissance convention?  According to the logic being used by critics of the Arizona bill (for which Governor Jan Brewer’s veto decision is due on Friday), the hotels should have been required to serve American Renaissance.  A business owner has no right to refuse service to someone merely because the customer’s purpose or intended event conflicts with the owner’s beliefs.

By that logic, of course, all kinds of business owners should be compelled by law to do all kinds of things.  How about advertising agencies and broadcasters: shouldn’t they be compelled to sell their services to everyone, without discrimination on the basis of the owners’ social or moral beliefs?  If the KKK decides it wants to launch a recruiting campaign that involves a Super Bowl commercial, shouldn’t all the relevant businesses, including the National Football League and the broadcaster, be required to take the KKK’s money?

Let’s make it more realistic, here, by using an example that actually happened.  There are plenty to choose from, including the Daniel Defense gun company ad rejected for the 2014 Super Bowl, an ad for a gay dating site rejected for the 2010 Super Bowl, a Tim Tebow ad quoting John 3:16 for the 2011 Super Bowl, and a PETA ad rejected for the 2009 Super Bowl.  By the logic of the Arizona bill’s critics, the NFL and the broadcaster should have been required to run these and many other ads.

Of course, one practical problem with all the ads people want to run is that they won’t all fit in one Super Bowl broadcast.  We can’t trust the interested parties to make advertising decisions that don’t involve moral beliefs or discrimination against certain customers’ purposes.  At least, we can’t trust them to always make decisions that we, personally, would approve of.  So it would probably be better to have the government make the decisions.

That wouldn’t make the decisions “fair,” of course.  (Indeed, we’d have a mighty peculiar feeling about the whole thing if we reflected, as we watched the Super Bowl, that the commercials had been selected for us by a government commission.)  But we could at least take comfort in the fact that the biased individuals who made the selections were from the government, and were not acting in their own private capacity.

That private-capacity decision-making is a keg of dynamite.  If we think about it, we realize how wrong it is that the hotels in Washington, D.C. had the discretion to turn someone’s business away just because they had a moral attitude about what the business involved.  Why, any of us might make decisions about our property and our labor and our purchasing power that other people would disagree with.  We might even make decisions that other people are offended by.

So let’s club that whole bag of snakes into submission right now.  We’ll have to start with an apology to American Renaissance, whose rights were violated in 2010 by three major hotel chains, while we sat passive and silent – or worse, applauded the hotel chains for their hurtful discrimination.

Denied equal service, for planning a white nationalist convention.
Denied equal service, for planning a white nationalist convention.

Keep in mind, the hotels wouldn’t have refused service to the members of American Renaissance if the members had just shown up individually seeking accommodation.  It was American Renaissance’s proposed event that the hotels decided not to host, and the decision was made because of moral feelings about the event’s nature.

Similarly, bakeries and photographers who don’t care and wouldn’t ask about their customers’ sexual orientation, if the customers wanted birthday cakes or personal photo shoots, have refused service to events – same-sex weddings – with which they disagree for personal reasons.  If the bakers and photographers should be punished and hounded out of business for this form of discrimination, the hotels should be too.

In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center should think shame on itself for suggesting that American Renaissance be denied equal service because of someone’s else’ moral objection to the perfectly legal, constitutionally protected event the group wanted to hold.  There’s probably a way to sue SPLC for damages.  Let’s get this ball rolling, and then start in on the Super Bowl.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.

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15 thoughts on “Wait – shouldn’t we be able to refuse service to people?”

  1. Like in all Leftist Constitutions, the Fascists are systematically imposing upon ours; you are free to BELIEVE what every you wish to, and free to think whatever you would like.

    George Orwell was a modern prophet and I wonder, if he had lived, if he’d have professed the final truth of what he was examining in his famous books.

    Maybe he’d have even voted for Maggie.


    1. ALL ‘isms’ of the left must eventually evolve into Orwell’s 1984 tyranny. It is an inescapable consequence of maintaining and sustaining the fundamental rejection of both reality and religious faith that all leftist ‘isms’ promulgate.

  2. Not long after the ink on the Constitution was barely dry, the federal government passed legislation making criticizing the government illegal (the Sedition Act). The courts did nothing to stop it, and it was in effect, and enforced, for several decades. Eventually, people figured out that this was completely unconstitutional and repealed it.
    Starting in the 1960s, government set out to fix a century old problem of race discrimination by passing laws which cancelled people’s right to freedom of association. This affected businesses choosing who they could refuse to provide service to. The courts did nothing to stop them, and they have been in effect for about a half century now. How long will it take for people to recognize that regardless of what the perceived social benefit appears to be, taking the easy way out by limiting liberty and cancelling parts of the Constitution is always a mistake?

    1. This time, due to the indoctrination and machinations of the left, the public (low-info voters) may well not recognize that mistake until it is far too late, having incrementally traded away too much liberty for a transitory security.

  3. I am so very glad to read this post. Yes. Absolutely. Every day we see that those who want to force the “new morality” on American citizens claim the right to be the only people with scruples. or convictions. or faith. or any value. Thank you for pointing out the double standard being applied by government and the people who pretend to be journalists in this country. Thank you.

  4. As a photographer, I can decline on religious grounds and you can force me to photograph your event. Just don’t complain about the quality of the pics you get. Or, if I’m a caterer forced to cater an event whose content I strongly disagree with, don’t complain if your wedding cake looks ugly and the chicken comes out lousy, because that’s what you’ll get. Do you as a customer really want to force your vendor to serve you? Ever seen the quality of work that slaves produce?

    1. Ever seen the quality of work that slaves produce?

      Your presumption that the objective is quality overlooks the possibility that the objective is slavery.

  5. It is not refusal of service to people that is the issue, it is the right to conscience in refusal of participation and thus coerced approval, that is the issue.

    The ‘big deal’ about “the proposed Arizona law protecting business owners who decline to provide services for ceremonies they believe are wrong” is of course upon the side of the left. The hypocrisy and inconsistency that opticon points out troubles the left not for two reasons; hypocrisy is, in their opinion not a vice when used in service of their agenda and same-sex marriage is not about marriage, its about using the issue of marriage to force societal acceptance of ANY sexual ‘orientation’ that the individual declares themselves to be. That is why it is not the homosexual community but the LGBT community.

    1. That is a good distinction, because the refusal of service includes not only a religious opposition to an idea or activity, but a free speech and associational right not to be a participant or cheerleader for it yourself.

      The case of a grocer refusing to sell a can of baked beans to a gay guy just never comes up. (In the old days it wasn’t an issue because customers did not routinely advertise their sexual preferences at the checkout counter.)

  6. No shirt, no shoes, no service.
    Let me say this about the Gay community please. I do not care what you are, what you were, what you have changed into. I don’t think about it one way or another.
    I am getting tired of hearing about it. EVERY DAY. We are talking about a sliver of the population that is intensely preoccupied with self.
    Let me repeat, I am not judgmental. I do bore easily in the presence of continued whining. Pick a pattern and move on.
    Folks, you are not special, neither am I. Live and let live.
    Of course, if we do a bid for a potential customer and they choose another contractor, I immediately call TV stations and picket the person’s property until they change their mind and do business with me.
    It is a great way to make personal connections.

  7. Wow! I turned into a horse there. I have thought about Mustafa Ben Ali, but not a horse. Unless there’s money in it.

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