Paul Jacob

September 8, 2013

“We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”

Not a sign of the times.

Oh, sure, you see the sign posted, here and there. But one is not allowed to really mean it. Contra those signs, the right to refuse service to anyone has not been retained by the people. It has been nullified by government.

Civil rights cases are on the rise again regarding gay weddings and civil union ceremonies. Businesses, in these United States, may not discriminate against people on the basis of race, religion . . . and now, in nearly half of the states, because of sexual orientation.

This came up in New Mexico, recently. Elane Photography had refused to visually record the civil union ceremonies of a gay couple. The couple sued, and a court ruled in their favor: “[A] commercial photography business that offers its services to the public, thereby increasing its visibility to potential clients, is subject to the anti-discrimination provisions” of New Mexico’s Human Rights Act, and “must serve same-sex couples on the same basis that it serves opposite-sex couples.”

This ruling expresses today’s dominant and quite trendy notion of “free” association. The moment you set up a business open to the public your right to freely avoid this person or that, either by trade or mere “hanging out,” goes out the window. The modern idea forces inclusion and demonizes exclusion. Anyone who excludes someone else on racial, sexual, or religious grounds is a bad person. And bad behavior like that is not allowed in government and schools and businesses.

Soon it will not be allowed in churches, either.

The more classical idea was that governments alone were not to discriminate against this person or that, because all are owed justice. But businesses do not sell justice, and, since no one is owed a particular service, private persons and groups, including businesses, were allowed to discriminate in ways forbidden to governments.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.