By Nathan Barton
The Nazgul decided, 8-1, (as reported by Minnesota Public Radio and elsewhere) that Abercrombie & Fitch violated a woman’s First Amendment rights by refusing to hire her because she wore a headscarf for sincerely held religious reasons, even though she didn’t specifically state that is why she wore it.
Many have pointed out that the SCOTUS is therefore demonstrating its strong support of religious liberty. According to many “soft” libertarian websites and comments, this both demonstrates the Nazgul hypocrisy on Second Amendment (which 4 of the 8 who voted for 1st Amendment rights constantly vote against) AND sets a precedent for similar upholding of constitutionally-guaranteed rights even in contradiction to upholding other rights.
The first to be upheld, according to these, is of course the Second Amendment rights, as being “higher priority” than the exercise of rights associated with private ownership of property. A&F could not deny this woman a “fundamental right” even on their own property. Keeping and bearing arms is an equally fundamental right, and deserves the same decision by the Nazgul, or so the argument goes. This presents some significant issues for liberty in general, it is clear. Yet this decision really is in keeping with past Nazgul decisions, specifically in regard to “equal opportunity” in housing, employment, and “public accommodation.” All of these rights (not all clearly expressed as protected in the Constitution) trump rights of property ownership.
For many libertarians, this of course presents some major problems. Does a person’s (or company’s) right of private ownership of property mean that person or company can then use that right to trump individual rights? This includes such rights as bearing arms, free speech, or privacy (specifically, protection against search and seizure). In other words, many say that the person who owns the property can and does have the right (and power) to tell guests and customers on their property that they cannot say or do some things, and can do some things to those same guests and customers, because it is private property. That can include prohibiting carry of weapons, prohibiting free speech (at least on some specific topics, religion being a common topic), and requiring guests and customers to allow themselves and their vehicles or baggage to be searched.
Some (myself among them) have pointed out that limiting “some rights” on private property can be a problem when applied to rights in general. If one basic right can be taken away by the owner of private property, then why cannot ANY, or even ALL, basic rights be taken away as a condition of entry and continued presence on the property? Is slavery okay as long as the enslaved person does not leave the property? If someone can be prohibited from speaking about religion or politics on someone else’s property, can they be prohibited from speaking about OTHER topics? If you can search their car or their luggage, can you search their body or their laptop? Obviously, it is possible to take it to extremes, but that is what liberty is all about, isn’t it?
Mama’s Note: The bottom line is that everyone is free to leave that private property if they find the owner’s demands intolerable. Slavery only comes into it if they are prevented from leaving. Staying, and following the property owners “rules,” is an option, a choice… and so is going somewhere else.
Nobody has any right to enter or remain on private property without permission of the owner. Any demands otherwise, backed up with government force, is theft of that property. If the owners can be forced to accept trespassers, then they have been effectively dispossessed.
Without private property, no other “rights” are possible because people first have to own their life and bodies, and be fully responsible for them.
Regarding comparing this ruling to rulings on Second Amendment issues (keeping and bearing arms), much will be made of the fact that theoretically, someone wearing a headscarf is NOT a potential physical threat to others, as carrying a weapon could be considered. That distracts from the point that liberty is liberty: a liberty that exists (as one of its primary reasons) to protect life and liberty in general should trump another liberty that does not so direct an impact. And of course, we must keep in mind that persons exercising their freedoms are responsible for their actions. Using a gun to commit aggression on someone is not “exercising liberty responsibly” in any way.
But the real point here is, DID the SCOTUS make the right decision? The Bill of Rights addresses what government cannot do, but today, we try and apply those same limits on private individuals and organizations as well. Is that a valid argument? Do the Nazgul really have that power? Should they have that power? Should your right to equal treatment under the law trump my right of free association, so that I have to do business with you even though I don’t like your skin color or your accent or your nationality or religion?
On to other news:
In Michigan, Fox News reports that a 23-year-old woman who killed a 35-year-old woman runner because she was texting has been punished in part by being banned from owning or using a cell phone or texting device for two years. (She is also doing jail time, mandatory safety training, and paying $15,000 in fines and fees.) Is this really adequate for the carelessness involved in killing someone?
Learning? Prices for rare earths have dropped 20-30% in the last several weeks, after China ended quotas and export taxes, according to Nikkei Asian Review. This may be an example of China learning from OPEC, which has used dropping oil prices as a way to discourage US and European shale gas and oil exploration and production; there are many rare-earth mining projects in the US (which has as much or more reserves of the minerals as China does) which may be uneconomical to continue, with prices depressed like this. Many of these have been stalled by environmental review processes and public opposition to mining, especially in California.
I’ve not said much about zero tolerance in government-ruined, theft-funded schools recently, so can’t let this pass without comment. Freedom Outpost reports of the school lockdown in Salem, Massachusetts because a 40-year-old man walked by in a Star Wars Imperial Stormtrooper outfit carrying a fake laser gun prop. Bad judgment on the part of the school principal AND the police is readily admitted: such bad judgment in MY opinion makes them exactly the kind of people we DON’T want teaching or even caring for children, much less “protecting the public.” Parents, keep your children OUT of these institutions, or get them out. Now.