By Nathan Barton
The recent SCOTUS non-decision on the Masterpiece bakery case and the even more recent case of the Red Hen denying service to Sarah Huckabee Sanders have already been compared and contrasted by all parties. Most recently, the Acton Institute, in their Powerblog, offered a libertarian take on these. In essence, AI argues that conservatives were as wrong for condemning the Red Hen as liberals were for condemning Jack Phillips at Masterpiece.
Although it is old news, it is worth pondering in the modern-day Fifty States and the sick, politicized culture and society we have become.
Let me preface my comments by assuring my readers that I think conservatives were wrong to condemn the Red Hen AND that liberals were wrong to condemn Masterpiece. I believe that ANY business and ANY individual should have the right to refuse service to ANY one for ANY reason at ANY time.
But are the two situations really all that similar? Should we be comparing them as they have been?
Let us consider not just the rights but the legalities and wisdom of the two. We as lovers of liberty can learn from these cases.
Apples: The two incidents are distinct. Masterpiece refused to produce a specific product (a work of art, they claimed) for the customers who then sued them. The bakery did not refuse service, just refused a particular product that was a form of expression.
Red Hen flat out refused service of ANY kind to Mrs. Sanders because of her employment. Actually, because of her employer. They were not asked to prepare a pro-Trump dish, or to create something that was contrary to their conscience or beliefs.
Sarah’s treatment was, we are told, different than refusing service to a person because of some inherent (“immutable”) trait. Like skin color or sex or nationality or hair color or facial features or religion. (More on that later.)
And keep in mind that businesses are REQUIRED to discriminate against people on certain products. A liquor store can refuse to sell a can of beer to someone under 21, but cannot refuse to sell a can of soda to that 10-year-old. Ditto for a tobacco shop and cigs. Or a gun shop for firearms. “Oh!” someone says. “That’s different, that’s the law.” Read on.
Oranges: Both cases can be argued to have come from illegal behavior. Masterpiece was accused of illegally denying service to homosexuals. Red Hen is (unofficially) accused of denying service to someone because of her beliefs (as expressed in her employment). Is that not a violation of freedom of belief (like freedom of religion)?
Which is why I raise the point about “immutable” characteristics. People can and do (or so we are told) change things we once thought were unchangeable: religion, sex, nationality (but who bothers with naturalization nowadays), facial features (plastic surgery), hair color (since about ancient Egypt), and even skin color (Elizabeth Warren and that woman who declared herself black?).
However, was either Masterpiece or Red Hen really doing something illegal? If someone is constantly telling a business owner that they are a greedy capitalist pig and will go up against the wall come the revolution, does the owner still have to serve them? Really?
Peaches: From a point of view of lovers of liberty, both Masterpiece and Red Hen had the right to deny service – that is, refuse association – to those that they did. As I’ve already pointed out. It is the controllers – the government and statists and their ilk – that want to make denying service a crime. But of course, usually only for specific “crimes.” You can deny service to someone for not wearing shoes or a shirt, but not because you think that they have a dirty mind or because you don’t like cops. It is clear that SOME beliefs and rights are more important than others. For instance, apparently you can’t deny a felon or an accused child abuser their freedom of speech but you CAN deny them their right to keep and bear arms.
How’s that again? Equality under the law?
Pears: Is it WISE to refuse service? Each must decide in their own minds. Whomever you refuse has friends and correspondents. They WILL (especially these days) try and punish you for “dissing” their friends, whether it is a couple of homosexual men out to prove a point and rile up a fundy, or a press secretary in the White House who is part of a political dynasty.
You have to remember that businesses are that – they are in business. To make money. To make money by providing services or products to customers who voluntarily choose to buy those goods and services. (Unless, of course, you are a government agency or contractor selling mandatory goods and services.)
The wisdom of the action must be decided by each individual business owner and operator. If you are an artist and you have a business designed to support your artistic endeavors, you know your priorities. If you are a restaurant that caters to libs more than to libertarians, or socialists in name more than to stealth socialists (like Republicans), you can decide to drive off a chunk of potential customers. You choose, and you pay one way or another.
Let me know your thoughts.
the cases are completely different. the bakery refused service as is his right. the red hen refused service as well, but then proceeded to follow them down the street harassing them and stood outside another diner screaming out to the owner urging them not to serve the group. not a right. now, since both the bakery and red hen used their right to deny service, we have the right to react, peaceably, by staying out of their establishments. the problem comes in when society, like ours, loses its moral compass and civility and common decency along with it. its okay to disagree, but it doesn’t have to be made a federal case every time you lose an argument.
Thank you for helping me make that point. And making some more good points.
Politics has become so pervasive that we do not use common sense on questions of “rights” and “privileges.”
So what about a business which refuses to serve Black Americans, solely based upon their race?
Or which refuse to serve Jewish Americans, simply because of their religion?
Or those which refuse to post firearm training videos from firearms instructors, simply because they think that GUNS are THE NEW SATAN?
Where do you draw the line?
Or is there a line?
Jerry, this is an EXCELLENT question, and cuts to the heart of liberty.
I don’t think that there IS a line. Either we have freedom of association or we do not.
Freedom of speech does not protect only speech we like – but speech which angers and offends us, which do NOT want to hear from others.
Is it not the same with freedom of association? We may not like the action that some people take to reject association with others. We may believe that they are fearfully wrong. But merely refusing to deal with someone is not initiation of force against them. Indeed, can we not consider their demand that we associate with them – serve them, make accommodation for them – an act of initiation of force against us?
If I must, under penalty of law, serve a police officer or an Antifa, whether I want to or not, is that not even a form of involuntary servitude?
If I must, under penalty of law, allow anyone to use the toilet in my business – which I pay for, with water and TP and all that I pay for – not a taking? How is that any different from stealing out of my candy counter or from my soda fountain, except in quantity? Yes, I may be callous and mean-spirited if I refuse to allow a person in great need of relief to use my toilet. But that is my God-given right to do so. Just as I may disagree with the person who puts up a fence on their property so that I may not use their property as a shortcut between my house and my friend’s place and have to walk an extra quarter-mile to go visit? But do I have a right to force him to allow me a right of way? For ANY reason? Does he even need to give me a reason?
As I said, Jerry, an excellent question indeed! One which should generate a great deal of thoughtful contemplation. Liberty is not something which is either free or easy.
“that woman who declared herself black”: Her name is Rachel Dolezal.
My two jobs are both heavy in customer service. I don’t want to know what my customers’ beliefs, sexuality, ethnicity, etc. are, in part to sidestep the potential land mines, but primarily because it’s none of my business and irrelevant to my work. Similarly, I work to keep my beliefs private for the same reason.
I have no problems denying customers service for relevant reasons to my work, though.
I agree with you, both parties should have the freedom to not serve a client and that these cases were also very different for the reasons you site. Still the hypocrisy we see from both the left and right about is just annoying.
“I believe that ANY business and ANY individual should have the right to refuse service to ANY one for ANY reason at ANY time.”
so do i, Nathan, and EVERYTHING else put forth on this front is tyranny (in disguise as compassion), bullying (disguised as ‘helping’ a favored minority/group) and privileges (as it always strips the RIGHTS of one from God, for the PRIVILEGES granted by the state).
in the end, Nathan, we get what we deserve, whether we think it is fair and just, or unfair and unjust. from my perspective, we are in the grips of the insanity we see daily for decades of accepting the unacceptable. so be it. it took decades to get here (if not a century+) and, if we ever find our way back, it will not have happened overnight.