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An Imaginary Injustice

Rob Tisinai

January 19th, 2012

I thought I was tired of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. Anti-gays cite the group constantly as an example of how good Christian folk will be persecuted — persecuted! — by marriage equality. But the story’s back in the news and as it turns out, demonstrates exactly the opposite.

Quick recap: Ocean Grove is a ministry that owns an open-air pavilion which it rents out for weddings and other events. They refused to let two lesbians rent the space for their civil union ceremony, and as a result, lost their property tax exemption on the pavilion.

Oh, the horror. From Ocean Grove’s lawyer:

The government should not be able to force a private Christian organization to use its property in a way that would violate its own religious beliefs.

…ignoring that the group never was forced to rent to the lesbians.

The actual facts aren’t so ominous. Ocean Grove simply applied for the wrong kind of property tax exemption. Instead of basing it on religious grounds, they applied under a state program that gave non-profit corporations a tax break on property that is “open for public use on an equal basis.” Ocean Grove obviously violated that agreement and lost the exemption on their pavilion.

But here’s the thing…

Ocean Grove later applied for a religious tax exemption on the facility, and got it, leaving them free to discriminate without paying property taxes.

And there’s more…

Ocean Grove also owns chapels, chapels that don’t permit same-sex ceremonies, and never have. Those properties are also tax exempt. Why? Because they’re part of the group’s religious work.

Ocean Grove’s religious freedom to discriminate against icky gay people was never violated. In fact, the full story actually affirms the religious right of the Religious Right to discriminate against us.

That’s not how the antigays are spinning it, though. Here’s one juicy headline:

JUDGE: FOLLOWING CHRISTIAN BELIEFS WRONG
You won’t believe latest attack on those faithful to Jesus

Wow, sounds like the judge declared that discriminating against gay people is wrong. But that’s nowhere in his decision. He simply says you can’t break your promises.

Two points:  First, Ocean Grove is a favorite anti-gay talking point, brought up over and over again, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, because it’s their best example of how marriage equality threatens their religious freedom in America. What does it say, then, when their best example completely falls apart?

Also, note that Ocean Grove isn’t protecting its religious liberty. No, it’s asking for special rights — specifically, the right to discriminate on its non-religious commercial property. Churches own lots of stuff — restaurants, shopping malls, parking lots. According to Ocean Grove’s lawyer, churches should have the special right to ignore the law, be exempt from the law, on all of it.

For years (literally!) I’ve been searching for an easy way to debunk this imaginary injustice. I think I’ve got it. Next time someone describes the loss of Ocean Grove’s tax exemption as a threat to religious liberty, you can reply:

That was only because they applied for the wrong kind of tax exemption, one that required their property to be open to everyone. Once they applied on religious grounds, they got their exemption back and now they can discriminate to their hearts’ content.

And that is the truth.

Comments

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Iamposterity
January 19th, 2012 | LINK

The Truth Truth!

Steve
January 19th, 2012 | LINK

Not that allowing religious organizations to discriminate just because they believe in made up nonsense isn’t just as immoral. Legal, but completely immoral and unreasonable.

Erin
January 19th, 2012 | LINK

Thank you once again, Rob. Unfortunately this will fall on deaf ears to the anti-gay alarmists. And the folks writing this crap like the headline you cited……just more proof these folks aren’t Christians. I may not be religious, but I used to be, and I was made to read the bible and study Jesus A LOT. These blatant, disgusting lies are against everything Christianity is supposed to be about. It’s just more evidence to me that these are business men and anti-gay hatred is a lucrative industry. They know they’ll reach plenty of folks who aren’t interested in facts, only pretending there’s something threatening about gays outside of their own homophobia, and that they have to push their religion into government, or the government will push itself onto them. But of course, that, as you’ve pointed out time and again is a bunch of crap.

Timothy Kincaid
January 19th, 2012 | LINK

I’m all for letting churches discriminate. I’m also for letting anyone discriminate other than the government.

I’m not a big fan of non-discrimination laws, but if we are going to have them that protect race, religion, and everything else, they had better protect orientation as well.

Timothy Kincaid
January 19th, 2012 | LINK

Erin is right, sadly. They aren’t interested in facts, only on how a story can be spun.

CPT_Doom
January 19th, 2012 | LINK

@ Timothy Kincaid – I sincerely hope you are not arguing in favor of Jim Crow laws or letting private companies have policies similar to such laws? As someone who travels extensively in red states, I do not want hotels or restaurants or cabbies to have the right to refuse my business because I happen to be gay.

Ben in Oakland
January 19th, 2012 | LINK

What is the truth, said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.

ZRAinSWVA
January 19th, 2012 | LINK

Timothy, I cannot believe you wrote, “I’m also for letting anyone discriminate other than the government.”

Truly? Really?

I left my previous job because my VP starting asking–very aggressively–questions re: my marital status. “Not married? Really? Do you have a girlfriend?”

I left shortly thereafter because his intent was clear.

This was from an international engineering consulting company with a very large presence in the US.

We’ve also faced discrimination in restaurants and shops and hotels. To the point where we now ask if they will “allow” (tolerate???) same sex couples in their hotel or B&B.

Is that okay? HELL NO!

While we can choose to not frequent those establishments, the fact that we must is WRONG.

The fact that my 25 year relationship means NOTHING to my current employer with regards to benefits is WRONG. The fact that we pay as individuals and do not receive the family rate at the county pool is WRONG.

I really, truly am stunned by your statement.

Ryan
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

Why on earth would it be okay for businesses to put up “Whites Only” signs, but not the government? That weird Libertarian/Rand Paul argument is nonsensical and naive. I know they say a business that did that would suffer the consequences financially through boycotts, but of course in some parts of the country, a business like that would flourish. And a business that didn’t allow gays would do even better in many places. And yet, the gays/blacks/fill-in-the-blanks being banned from that location would still have to pay state and local taxes that support it. (For example, paying for the roads and sidewalks that allow people to approach and patronize said business). It’s patently wrong, much like most Libertarian positions, which always sound really good and fair until you spend more than two minutes thinking about it.

Mark F.
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

Libertarians believe it’s wrong to FORCE people to associate or do business with you AGAINST THEIR WILL. Nothing nonsensical about that. Discrimination is simply making choices, which may be good or bad. You have the right to quit your job for a stupid reason, why shouldn’t your employer have the same right to fire you? Forcing someone to work for you is slavery, so why is forcing someone to employ you morally right? How does that make sense?

A lot of things are wrong. Doesn’t mean they should be illegal.

Mark F.
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

“I sincerely hope you are not arguing in favor of Jim Crow laws or letting private companies have policies similar to such laws”

Jim Crow laws were government mandated discrimination, which I oppose. You can’t escape the state, but you do have choice in private businesses. I can’t speak for Tim, but I am in favor of allowing private discrimination.

“As someone who travels extensively in red states, I do not want hotels or restaurants or cabbies to have the right to refuse my business because I happen to be gay.”

But they do already (in many red states), and it seems you’ve survived. Are you under the impression there is a national anti-gay discrimination law? There isn’t. I would suggest not announcing you are gay when you step into a cab, sit down at a diner or check into a hotel if you think it might be a problem. Or consult a directory of gay friendly businesses.

Mark F.
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

I’m amused by people who are dying to force anti-gay businesses to profit from them. Perhaps you’d also like to donate to the LDS Church while you are at it. Me, I’d rather support businesses that voluntarily want my money or services and boycott those that do not.

Mark F.
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

Please explain why it should be legal for churches to discriminate but illegal for private individuals to do so. Surely, women who want to be Catholic priests are harmed in some sense by the church policy.

Nobody would say it should be legal for a church to run a slave market but wrong for an individual. Nobody would say a church should be able to legally steal but not an individual. Why the double standard with discrimination?

Mark F.
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

“I’m not a big fan of non-discrimination laws, but if we are going to have them that protect race, religion, and everything else, they had better protect orientation as well.’

I see your point, but I’d rather repeal laws that prohibit discrimination and see the looks on people’s faces when I put a “No Mormons Need Shop Here Until You Stop Being Anti-Gay” sign on my business door. Fair is fair.

Ryan
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

Churches are non-profit, Mark F. Their right to discriminate is also guaranteed in the First Amendment. However, a for profit business, which benefits financially from taxes paid by all citizens cannot discriminate against those citizens (unless they’re gay, of course, unfortunately).

Mark F.
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

Ryan, churches also sometimes benefit from public services. But why do you want your money to go to anti-gay bigots? I don’t get it.

Ryan
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

“You can’t escape the state, but you do have a choice in private business”. There’s that Libertarian naivete. If you’re a poor black person living in some podunk town in Georgia and every business has a “Whites Only” sign, then in fact you do *not* have a choice in private business. And yet, if that same business had a fire, your tax money would contribute to the expense of putting it out.

Ryan
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

You don’t have to “get it”. That’s irrelevant. I wouldn’t patronize an anti-gay business either. But some people don’t have a choice, and others say it’s the principle. If you’re going to profit off of the people, you must serve them equally.

Mark F.
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

“If you’re a poor black person living in some podunk town in Georgia and every business has a “Whites Only” sign, then in fact you do *not* have a choice in private business. And yet, if that same business had a fire, your tax money would contribute to the expense of putting it out.”

Even in that unlikely case, I don’t think Amazon.com would refuse to ship goods to you. You are naive if you think making a buck doesn’t take a back seat to discrimination 9 times out of 10. Can you imagine any major retailer refusing to sell to blacks?

Jim Crow laws in the South were enforced by government. The Southern railroads were against separate but equal, that was forced on them by the state.

If there was widespread discrimination against blacks, that would create a perfect opportunity in a free market for someone to come in and make a profit off blacks.

And if every store in some small town indeed had a “whites only” sign, I think it would be time to buy a one way ticket out.

I’m opposed to tax money paying to put out fires, by the way. You should have to buy a private insurance policy for that.

Mark F.
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

“If you’re going to profit off of the people, you must serve them equally.”

Says you. Asserting something does not make it true. I agree that’s a good business practice, I just don’t think it should be compulsory. You do. We disagree. Nothing to argue about as you don’t accept my premises.

Ryan
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

Wow. Amazon.com. I think we’re done here.

Mark F.
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

Yep. We are done. You have no compelling argument, although “wow” almost persuaded me.

Jay Jonson
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

See the reaction to this story at glbtq.com: Victory for New Jersey Couple, where Claude Summers expresses disappointment that the couple did not ask for damages and talks about the lies told by the Alliance Defense Fund in the case.

Priya Lynn
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

Mark said “Libertarians believe it’s wrong to FORCE people to associate or do business with you AGAINST THEIR WILL.”.

No one is being forced to associate or do business against their will. If you don’t want to do business or associate with people protected by an anti-discrimination law you’re free to go out of business. You say its time to move for a black person living in a small town where every store has a “whites only sign”, the difference is that its not an imposition on anyone to do business with blacks or gays whereas its a tremendous disruption for someone, particularly a poor person, to have to pull up roots and move away from job, family, friends, and home.

Mark said “Forcing someone to work for you is slavery, so why is forcing someone to employ you morally right? How does that make sense?”.

It makes sense because in a just society everyone deserves opportunity based on their ability, not the colour of their skin or orienation of their sexuality. Business people are forced to obey all manner of laws, its BS to pretend being forced to provide equal opportunity is some unjust imposition.

Mark said “A lot of things are wrong. Doesn’t mean they should be illegal.”.

And some things that are wrong should be illegal.

“I sincerely hope you are not arguing in favor of Jim Crow laws or letting private companies have policies similar to such laws”

Jim Crow laws were government mandated discrimination, which I oppose. You can’t escape the state, but you do have choice in private businesses.”.

That’s BS. Sometimes you can escape the state and othertimes you can’t escape private businesses. If its wrong for the government to do something it doesn’t magically become right because someone is not in the government. A lot of people live in small towns where many services have only one or a few providers. Allowing businesses to discriminate can be a severe impact on minorities whereas “forcing” someone to do business with a hated minority is NO IMPACT WHATSOEVER on such a business.

You can bitch all day about anti-discrimination laws being “unfair”, but at the end of the day people’s rights have to be balanced and we have to ask, who is harmed the most by the existence or non-existance of an anti-discrimination law and its no contest whatsoever, minorities are potentially severely harmed by discrimination while individuals suffer no harm whatsoever by not discriminating.

Mark said “You are naive if you think making a buck doesn’t take a back seat to discrimination 9 times out of 10.”.

You’re ignorant. History has proven that many times making a buck does take a back set to discrimination. You need to read up on your on not to distant history, when blacks couldn’t get services at all in many places and were severely harmed by discrimination. The same thing happens to LGBTs every day.

Mark said “Can you imagine any major retailer refusing to sell to blacks?”

They don’t refuse because the law doesn’t allow them to. And in many small towns, there are no major retailers.

If you’re going to profit off of the people, you must serve them equally.”

Mark said “Says you. Asserting something does not make it true.”.

It may not be true, but its a just and moral policy. Society has a moral right and obligation to demand that anyone making a profit off of the people has to serve them equally. Whether or not it does is a another issue.

Priya Lynn
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

Mark said “If there was widespread discrimination against blacks, that would create a perfect opportunity in a free market for someone to come in and make a profit off blacks.”.

That’s an incredibly naieve belief that open markets solve everything – they certainly do not. In many cases it will simply be impossible for a business to start up and compete successfully with a well entrenched business when the new business can only expect a small minority (perhaps a few people in a small town) as clients. Stop pretending everyone lives in a big city.

Mark said “I would suggest not announcing you are gay when you step into a cab, sit down at a diner or check into a hotel if you think it might be a problem. Or consult a directory of gay friendly businesses.”.

That’s your solution?! Pathetic and grossly unjust. Not everyone can hide that they’re gay all the time, no gay couple should have to pretend they don’t know each other to get service or check into a hotel. Many places, most smaller towns have no gay friendly businesses whatsoever and once again its a far bigger imposition on people to force them to search far and wide for a perhaps non-existant business willing to serve them than it is to ask a bigot to serve someone he doesn’t like.

Justice is about balancing rights and obligations, and you want the bigots to have all the rights and no obligations. A just balance recognizes that its NO IMPOSITION WHATSOEVER to ask a bigot to serve blacks, gays, or jews while its often a huge devastating imposition to minorities to be discriminated against.

Ryan
January 20th, 2012 | LINK

But Priya Lynn, you forget that the poor black family can just buy their groceries on amazon.com! What’s the big deal?

(Seriously, don’t engage with the man. He literally said that. It’s still right up there in print and everything).

Erin
January 21st, 2012 | LINK

I went back and forth with this issue. I thought, “sure, let the privately-owned businesses discriminate, and it will just be bad for business, and that will prevent the discrimination.” But then I thought, “If we have laws against discrimination based on race, gender, age etc, there had better be such laws that cover orientation.” Then I thought, for a split second, “maybe the Libertarians have a point, maybe we should take private business out of those laws, because, back to square one, the businesses will suffer anyway if they discriminate, thus doing away with such discrimination.” But, yes I only thought that for a split second. While I understand the political principle Mark F is getting across, that these things shouldn’t be compulsory, I also understand, like Ryan and Priya pointed out, there are some places in this country where a person won’t be able to find a place to sell them groceries within a distance they’re able to travel if those laws get lifted. The laws are needed, and what does it say about us and our worth if we’re not protected from discrimination, we are clearly ripe to face under such laws? As for the principle of not forcing private business owners to make certain business decisions: our country gives them a Capitalistic economy to do business in with a certain amount of freedom, and the opportunity for individuals to get a business license in the industry of their choice, and the right to rent a space in the public square. I don’t see it as too much to ask them not to discriminate against members of the public for unjust reasons, especially when, some of those businesses are very important to the community. Maybe we can let the not-so important businesses, like wedding photographers off the hook, and decide between important public accomadations ( I can never spell that word right), and extra luxuries. That’s something I’m still up in the air about, like where we draw the line. Yeah, though I might use slightly different arguments to reach the conclusion, I’m with Priya and Ryan on this one.

Regan DuCasse
January 21st, 2012 | LINK

I was looking, but I think what was missing in this exchange was when a private business INFORMS you of their specific discrimination.
Having signs that state who gets served and who doesn’t, (and for what reason), is ALSO an obligation of the business if they don’t want to have a confrontation with those that they won’t serve.

What is actually happening, is the inconsistent and often duplicitous discrimination that goes on.

It’s the discrimination on RELIGIOUS grounds and directing this discrimination apparently ONLY at gay people, is where the religious put THEMSELVES into quicksand.
1. No potential patron can have ANY idea what a private business’s religious test is for them because the religion isn’t specified.

2. Too many religious people do not utilize that discrimination to others that meet their belief criteria.

3. A huge majority of people got the same religious education growing up, and could call such business people on their lack of consistent discrimination no matter WHO it’s directed towards.

In other words, THEY DON’T really know who their patrons are, any more than their patrons know about THEM.
The business owners get all bent out of shape as if they had no idea that legally, in order to get certain permits, and comply with local ordinance to get tax or other credits, non discrimination MUST be part of the contract, PRECISELY for the aforementioned reasons.

The religious themselves aren’t too good about how or with whom they want to discriminate in order to do GOOD business with their localities and patrons.
And the government can’t enforce (or support) issues that are literally all over the place.
That’s what was so disgraceful and dishonest about the owner/manager of El Coyote.
She got a large financial benefit from gay people, but behind their backs, she didn’t think them good enough to have the same rights as she did.
And she was too cowardly to own up to her betrayal.
This was also true of the way white proprietors in my neighborhood growing up treated their black patrons.

So there ARE some bigots that do want your business, just not anything ELSE to do with you.
Either way, bigots are essentially VERY dishonest people.
You never can know where you are with them, and they sure as hell don’t want to even give anyone a chance to see it openly and for themselves.

Timothy Kincaid
January 23rd, 2012 | LINK

CPT_Doom

I certainly do not support Jim Crow laws. The government must never discriminate – it is all of us and should represent all of us. It should never say to any person “When collecting taxes you’re a citizen, but when doling out rights you’re a menace and a threat to society.”

But private companies are not spending my money. They are not representing me. And if they don’t like me, fine.

Because I may not like them a whole lot either. Maybe I’m just selfish, but I want to reserve the right to refuse service to all Catholic Bishops, Boy Scout Executives, and leaders of SPLC Hate Groups. And I want for Gay Pride organizers to tell anti-gay groups that want to run a “Repent or Burn, You Sodomite” float in the parade to shove their float into the closest orifice of convenience.

And if you are someone who travels extensively in red states, then you should know that hotels and restaurants and cabbies DO have the right to refuse your business because you happen to be gay. Not one red state has a state-wide non-discrimination policy that includes gay people. I repeat, it is perfectly legal in every red state to discriminate against you solely because you are gay.

ZRAinSWVA

The fact that my 25 year relationship means NOTHING to my current employer with regards to benefits is WRONG. The fact that we pay as individuals and do not receive the family rate at the county pool is WRONG.

Is that okay? HELL NO!

No, it’s not okay… but I wouldn’t make it illegal.

There are three reasons why “I’ll force you” is not the right response to social injustice.

First, it’s not very effective. Anyone who wants to fire you for being gay will do so; they’ll just call it something else: poor performance, bad attitude, not a team player. And if they don’t want to serve you, believe me you don’t want to be there.

Second, force always meets with resistance. Hostility and anger and resentment build and help to add to strife instead of heal. Even some who would not discriminate anyway will resent it if they feel that they are being told what to do.

Third, often times non-discrimination laws actually provide an excuse for bigots to demean people that otherwise would demand respect. How often do we still hear idiots look at an accomplished and talented physician and say “I wouldn’t trust my body to a racial quota doctor.”

It is a far far better practice to change hearts before you change the rights of businesses to operate how they choose.

Ryan

I know they say a business that did that would suffer the consequences financially through boycotts, but of course in some parts of the country, a business like that would flourish. And a business that didn’t allow gays would do even better in many places.

Then why don’t they? In ALL of those “some parts of the country” you talk about, it is perfectly legal to put up a sign saying “we don’t serve teh gheys”. But for some reason, they don’t.

(Oh, and Ryan, I would be opposed to discrimination in the use of the sidewalks – that’s government.)

Churches are non-profit, Mark F. Their right to discriminate is also guaranteed in the First Amendment. However, a for profit business, which benefits financially from taxes paid by all citizens cannot discriminate against those citizens (unless they’re gay, of course, unfortunately).

There is SOOOOO much wrong with that.
* non-profits must follow non-discrimination laws
* churches and other religious non-profits must follow non-discrimination laws up to the point where their religious beliefs contravene. They don’t have blanket exemption.
* for-profit businesses do not “benefit financially from taxes”. They (along with the churches, the KKK, HRC, and you and me) do receive the sort of blanket benefits, but when it comes to taxes, they are on the paying not the benefiting side of the equation.

Mark F

I see your point, but I’d rather repeal laws that prohibit discrimination and see the looks on people’s faces when I put a “No Mormons Need Shop Here Until You Stop Being Anti-Gay” sign on my business door. Fair is fair.

I don’t think that is likely. Our society sees position on these laws as a measure of whether one is a racist. It doesn’t matter why, if you suggest reversing some of the terms of the civil rights act, your political career is over. Eventually we’ll simply outgrow them. In time businesses won’t discriminate for the same reason they don’t have the CEO of their competitor bumped off, regardless of what the law says, that’s just wrong.

But in the meantime, laws which say “You cannot discriminate against any minorities other than Teh Gheys” are laws which give implicit permission to discriminate against LGBT people. I want to remove that invitation.

Erin

I also understand, like Ryan and Priya pointed out, there are some places in this country where a person won’t be able to find a place to sell them groceries within a distance they’re able to travel if those laws get lifted.

Sure… except that really isn’t true. Those mysterious places are a myth and pretty much always have been.

Maybe we can let the not-so important businesses, like wedding photographers off the hook, and decide between important public accomadations ( I can never spell that word right), and extra luxuries. That’s something I’m still up in the air about, like where we draw the line.

And that is one of my real issues. Maybe we could find a way to accommodate people, to treat them the way we want to be treated… if we really wanted to. But sadly, too many people on our side just say do what I demand or go out of business.

I don’t want to be that kind of person.

I simply cannot fathom the mindset that sues someone because that person (not even a big business, but just some individual person) will not bake them a cake. They really do want to impose their values on everyone around them. They are the exact mirror image of the Catholic Bishops, and every bit as pompous and self-righteous about it.

Regan

Either way, bigots are essentially VERY dishonest people.
You never can know where you are with them, and they sure as hell don’t want to even give anyone a chance to see it openly and for themselves.

That’s actually a good thing. It means that they know that discrimination is socially unacceptable.

And the thing with social change is that eventually those who think themselves superior will adopt the social attitudes about what makes “a good person”. It’s an evolution and an interesting one to watch. I’ve seen a lot of religious people who once held really homophobic ideas shift to the place where the position they once held they now use as an example of how tolerant they are (“well of course I support civil unions, but marriage is blah, blah, blah…”).

AND HAVING SAID ALL OF THAT…

I do give some value to the argument that there are times when you need to break a pattern. I think that the laws that banned racial access to accommodations or employment in the south may have been necessary just to give a time for prejudices and bigotries to be proved wrong.

I’ve heard some say that the racial discrimination would have stopped on its own anyway and that social upheaval was coming with or without the civil rights laws. I don’t think that very likely.

Erin
January 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Timothy responded to this thing I said:
“I also understand, like Ryan and Priya pointed out, there are some places in this country where a person won’t be able to find a place to sell them groceries within a distance they’re able to travel if those laws get lifted.”

By saying:

“Sure… except that really isn’t true. Those mysterious places are a myth and pretty much always have been.”

So, if we repeal the part of the Civil Rights act that makes private business owners who have businesses open to the public serve customers despite race, you’re saying the rural towns in Alabama or Mississippi that don’t have corporate grocery stores, won’t turn away an African-american who doesn’t own a car? And yes those towns with nothing but small mom and pop stores still exist. There are several of such towns in Salem County, New Jersey, where I grew up. There are towns such as Alloway, Lower Alloways Creek, and Quinton, NJ, where there are no shopping centers. There are one or two very small, family-owned stores that have the grocery basics. If such towns exist in NJ, they damn sure exist in Alabama and Mississippi, where there is even more, remote, farming towns.
My professor went to Georgia in 1990 with two African-American colleagues. They walked into a restaurant, and a man came to the host table and slammed his hand down on it and said, “Can I help you boys?” in a nasty tone. My professor and his friends, immediately left and ate elsewhere. My mother also shared with me a story of the time she visited a bar in South Jersey in the early 1980’s. The black patrons stayed in the back room, and the bartender took their drinks back to them, and the whites got the rest of the bar. I know it would happen, because it still does happen. People still thumb their nose at the law. There is no doubt in my mind, if it were no longer the law, it would happen way more. At least having a law against it, meant my professor and his friends and my mom’s black friends could have done something about it if they decided to pursue it. Like it or not, the reality, not myth, but REALITY is that plenty of towns like this still exist, where if a store owner was to turn down African-Americans and have the legal right to do so, plenty of people in the town would support that business decision. I’m standing by what I say, and I’m not impressed with your retort on this one. You’re saying the scenario I’ve put across is not something that can happen, and that is complete crap. It can happen and still does happen. Taking the laws away will make the circumstances worse for African-Americans and people of other historically disenfranchised minorities. The law is necessary and reasonable. If one has the freedom and opportunity to open his own business in the public square, asking him to obey public discrimination law is not too much to ask. And if racial minorities are getting this protection, we damn sure better too.

Priya Lynn
January 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Hear Hear, Erin.

Timothy Kincaid
January 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Erin,

I am not saying “never” about pretty much anything.

What I am saying is that the dynamic which would create such a scenario would be pretty rare, if ever. So rare, in fact, that I don’t think the civil rights heroes ever expressed that this was an issue.

Pre-civil rights, there was a lot of segregated shopping. White stores and black stores. But I don’t think there was denial of groceries in areas where there was only one store (and I’ll happily retract that if someone more knowledgeable corrects me). The idea being that bigots didn’t want to make blacks go without food, they just primarily wanted it known that whites were superior. So blacks went in by the back door, or were submissive, or whatever. NONE OF THAT IS OKAY. But I don’t think the example raised about not being able to buy food was prevalent before – if at all – and would not likely be now.

I am certainly not trying to suggest that racism no longer exists. It does. Here in liberal Los Angeles it exists, often in subtle ways that are not even noticed by anyone but the victims. (I went to an event a few years back with a friend who was there with a VIP ticket. I was waved in but over in the VIP line they held him up and questioned him and checked his ID. There was pretty much only one reason why.)

And I totally agree with the anger and indignation of those who want it to change. They are completely right.

But I don’t think that “I won’t let you” laws are the best way to stop attitudes. For the three reasons I listed above.

And the Jersey bar story is a very good illustration about how you can pass a law and unless people change inside it just won’t make a lot of difference.

Now to your comment…

I’m standing by what I say, and I’m not impressed with your retort on this one. You’re saying the scenario I’ve put across is not something that can happen, and that is complete crap.

No, Erin, what is complete crap is making up a NEW scenario and putting words in my mouth about it. That is total BS and I’ll ask you politely – this time – not to do that.

As for your opinions on the matter, I was paying attention and giving them credibility until you went for the strawman ploy.

Erin
January 23rd, 2012 | LINK

But you just said exactly what I said. You said the scenario is unlikely, and I don’t think it is. I also don’t think the law should condone it even if it is rare. I’m not actually putting words in your mouth. You wrote a really short part of that last long comment you made to me, and I’ll admit I only read the part that responded to me, but I quoted exactly what you said, and responded directly to that. I did not make up a new scenario, only said that such scenarios were possible, and the law should not allow them. But apparently to you that is a strawman and putting words in your mouth. I disagree.

Ryan
January 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Timothy, when I said
“However, a for profit business, which benefits financially from taxes paid by all citizens cannot discriminate against those citizens (unless they’re gay, of course, unfortunately).”
I meant that they benefit financially because if people didn’t pay taxes, there wouldn’t be roads or sidewalks or schools or firehouses or police stations, which means that the for profit-business in question wouldn’t be making any profits at all. If I live in your neighborhood and my taxes help make it possible for you to have your business, then you shouldn’t be able to discriminate against me.
And when you said,
“churches and other religious non-profits must follow non-discrimination laws up to the point where their religious beliefs contravene. They don’t have blanket exemption”,
you were basically repeating what I said,
“Their (churches)right to discriminate is also guaranteed in the First Amendment.”
So I’m not sure how “SOOOO much” was wrong with it. I guess I should’ve been a little clearer, in that I didn’t mean to give the impression that I thought *all* non-profits were free to discriminate. But saying “churches must follow non-discrimination laws up to the point where their religious beliefs contravene” is a distinction completely without meaning. When would a church’s religious beliefs *not* be a factor?

(BTW, I have no idea how to format or change the font or anything on this website. Sorry that it looks so messy).

TwirlyGirly
January 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Priya wrote: “Sometimes you can escape the state and othertimes you can’t escape private businesses. If its wrong for the government to do something it doesn’t magically become right because someone is not in the government. A lot of people live in small towns where many services have only one or a few providers. Allowing businesses to discriminate can be a severe impact on minorities whereas “forcing” someone to do business with a hated minority is NO IMPACT WHATSOEVER on such a business.”

Absolutely, Priya! Let me put a different spin on this issue. I am disabled, and use a manual wheelchair for mobility. Although the ADA was signed into law 20 years ago, there are still hundreds of businesses in my community that are not accessible. In most cases, just one step is separating me from the services I want and need. The only thing which must be done is install a ramp, for crying out loud! But they don’t. For all intents and purposes, that step has the same effect as a big old “Abled-Bodied ONLY” sign to anyone who uses a wheelchair.

The problem with not having anti-discrimination laws and/or the ADA is that minority groups, by their very definition, represent a smaller number of people than the majority. Thus, minority groups do not have the financial clout to negatively impact a business by forcing it not to discriminate or risk losing income. And while able-bodied people (or people who are straight and support LGBT rights) may talk a good game and claim this kind of discrimination is wrong, there aren’t too many of them who are willing to go out of their way and forego doing business with a particular provider just because they discriminate against LGBT folks, people with disabilities, or any other minority group.

Unless discriminating impacts a business’s bottom line (through income loss or fines imposed for discriminating), there is no incentive for them to change. Because minorities don’t have the numbers to affect that bottom line, the only way to prevent discrimination is with the law and the imposition of fines or penalities for those businesses in violation.

Of course, with so many businesses still not in compliance with the ADA 20 years after the law took effect, it seems anti-discrimination laws are doing a far better job of ending discrimination for minority groups than the ADA has for people with disabilities.

Rebecca F
January 25th, 2012 | LINK

Let me remind you folks that we have freedom of religion in this nation. Why do you think it is not discriminatory to force a churche to conduct same sex weddings?! Would you demand that a Muslim Iman do the same?! I bet not, you would have blood shed in the streets for offending Muslims!!!! Has it ever occurred to you that we Christians believe that if we were to condone the GLBT lifestyle by performing same sex marriages in our churches that we sincerelly believe we would be sinning against God?
Why is it all right for you to force your morality down our throats by forcing us to do something against our consciences?!!
If you want to get married in a church go to one of those “Gay” churhes!!!

Priya Lynn
January 25th, 2012 | LINK

Rebecca, stop the hysterics. No one has ever been forced to perform a same sex marriage in a church and no same sex couple has ever asked to be married in a church that doesn’t want to do so.

Stop pretending to be a victim.

Erin
January 25th, 2012 | LINK

Rebecca, try arguing with facts. You DO have freedom of religion. Everyone in America does. No same sex weddings have ever been forcefully performed in any church and there is no law that says they have to, because that is against the First Amendment, the very first of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution. This story is about a public pavilion. The people who owned the pavilion did not have the right to discriminate because such discrimination is illegal in places of public accomadation. The people who owned it declared it a public pavilion through their own error. Once they fixed their error, and filled out the paperwork to make the pavilion a private, religious piece of property, the suit was dropped, they still got tax exempt status, and the lesbians never got to have their ceremony there. Try to keep up with the facts before spouting off your ridiculous hysterics.

Timothy Kincaid
January 25th, 2012 | LINK

Erin

But you just said exactly what I said. You said the scenario is unlikely, and I don’t think it is. I also don’t think the law should condone it even if it is rare.

Then we disagree. I suppose that there actually is a real answer somewhere (maybe SPLC?) as to the frequency of racial minorities being denied access to food, but ’til someone more knowledgable than either of us chimes in we are left with our best guesses.

As for legality, you and I see the world from opposite perspectives. You seem to think that the law condones things which it allows and that freedoms should be restricted unless “the law” approves of them. I believe the exact opposite: individuals (including merchants) should be as free as possible and laws should only restrict them in areas in which they actively (not by omission) harm others.

“The Law” neither condemns nor condones anything which it does not address. And when “the law” gets in the condemning and condoning business – as it does from time to time – it is not really “the law” that is doing so, it’s politicians using the law to impart their own values onto the lives of their constituents. Having been on the “condoned” side of that equation more than I care for, I am always hesitant to go there.

There has been some discussion about how if one engages in commerce in any way then the government is free to assign any dictates that it prefers. After all, you can simply do something else (which is also under the same demands, turning this argument into “well, you could just choose not to eat”). I have a significantly higher barrier for what I think is reasonable intrusion.

Now as you have clarified that you didn’t read my comment before responding to it, perhaps you were not intending to use a strawman argument – I’ll retract that. But in the future, please read my full comment before rebutting it.

Priya Lynn
January 25th, 2012 | LINK

Timothy said “You seem to think that the law condones things which it allows and that freedoms should be restricted unless “the law” approves of them.”.

Talk about a straw man…

Timothy Kincaid
January 25th, 2012 | LINK

Ryan,

I meant that they benefit financially because if people didn’t pay taxes, there wouldn’t be roads or sidewalks or schools or firehouses or police stations, which means that the for profit-business in question wouldn’t be making any profits at all. If I live in your neighborhood and my taxes help make it possible for you to have your business, then you shouldn’t be able to discriminate against me.

Let’s turn that around and see if it makes sense.

If I operate my business and pay taxes in your neighborhood, then you shouldn’t be able to discriminate against me either. So you’ll be shopping at my store from now on, no matter the prices or the customer service. After all, as a business I pay a hell of a lot more taxes than you do so. (Come to think of it, maybe I even get to dictate your sex life. After all, you do walk on the sidewalks I pay for.)

Perhaps we should agree that – regardless of the arguments made by some of the more totalitarian-minded Republicans – “I pay taxes” does not give us the right to make decisions for other taxpayers.

When would a church’s religious beliefs *not* be a factor?

There is a common misconception about religious belief, in a legal context. It isn’t just “hey, I believe this”, it has to be consistent with the expressed beliefs of your religious community and it has to be on a matter that is part of a uniquely identifiable part of the engagement of one’s beliefs.

For example, suppose the local United Church of Christ owned a coffee-shop. And suppose that it fired an employee when they found out she was gay.

It would matter a great deal that this was UCC and not Southern Baptist, because the teachings of the two communities are worlds apart on the issue. And while the pastor of a local UCC Church might be homophobic, he doesn’t have the legal presumption that his anti-gay beliefs are based on religious objection because his denomination teaches equality.

Then it would matter whether this coffee-shop was a real part of the church’s ministry. If it were expressly created and operated consistently as a means of ministry (like maybe the wait staff spending time at each table talking about how great it is to be a Baptist) then they would have some argument.

But simply saying “we are a church” is not enough to exempt them from non-discrimination laws.

As for formatting, just use simple HTML codes.

Erin
January 25th, 2012 | LINK

Timothy, I take things on a case by cases basis. I look at each individual law. I do think many laws are unnecessary, and take decisions away from citizens who are capable of making it themselves. You and I differ on this issue , specifically on what constitutes harm. Even if being denied service is just a minor convenience for a customer who is part of a commonly-disliked group, it is still unjustified. It does not, however cause the business owner harm to check his prejudices at the door and serve the public. No one said he had to serve a drunk or unruly person who drives away other customers or damages store property. “Hey, I don’t like your kind” shouldn’t be a valid excuse to discriminate in the public square. Now I personally, as I said in my original comment, take that on a case by case basis as far as which type of business we’re talking about here. I think it should be necessary for a pharmacy or food store for example to not be allowed to discriminate against customers. I can live with something like a wedding photographer being able to discriminate against any client he wishes. He doesn’t provide a vital service, and the service he provides has to be planned out ahead of time, versus a store where someone walks in for cough medicine or something like that. I also keep in mind that these laws came from a time when everything was segregated, and all of that was unnecessary and just plain out of hand. If we suddenly lifted that part of the Civil Rights Act, I doubt very much that people would go back to wide-spread, everything-segregated society like it was in the pre-1964 South, but I do see a possibility that isolated incidents can happen here and there, like I said. This is one of those laws, where I understand the principle you’re trying to uphold when you argue against it, really I do. I just don’t see how it’s such a big deal to ask a person who has the opportunity to open his business to the public to not discriminate based on prejudice alone, from the business-owners perspective, but I can see how it would be a big deal for any customers that get belittled and humiliated and thrown out the door just for attempting to seek a product or service from a business open to the public, especially if it’s an important product or service like food or medicine.

Timothy Kincaid
January 25th, 2012 | LINK

Erin, maybe we aren’t that far apart. But I guess we still disagree. That’s okay.

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