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In Search of Tolerance in Lexington? Don't Look to the Government

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Something big is brewing in Lexington, Ky., and as difficult as it might be for some sports fans to believe, the implications are far greater than the University of Kentucky-Louisville Final Four match-up on March 31. At stake are fairness, tolerance, diversity, constitutionally protected rights, taxpayer dollars, and local jobs.

Homosexual activists, the self-proclaimed purveyors of (a distorted notion of) fairness and tolerance, have unjustly pointed the finger at an apparel and promotional-printing business—Hands On Originals, Inc. But the real offenders here are local government officials in Lexington.

Hands On Originals is a well-respected Lexington business that prints and designs apparel and other promotional materials for its customers, which, until today, included Lexington. The company is a beacon of true tolerance and diversity in the community: it employs and serves people from all walks of life. But due to the promotional nature of its products, Hands On Originals (like many similar companies) refuses orders endorsing positions that conflict with its owners’ convictions.

This business policy is consistent with American ideals. Indeed, no one expects an African-American printer to create and produce promotional materials for a skinhead rally, or a feminist business owner to provide her services for a convention advocating male dominance. But homosexual activists have brazenly demanded that Hands On Originals create promotional materials for the Lexington Pride Festival—an event that advocates homosexual behavior—even though such a message conflicts with the owners’ convictions. Worse yet, Lexington government officials, who are supposed to respect and protect the interests of all citizens, have ceased doing business with the company simply because its owners have chosen to operate consistently with their conscience.

This government retaliation is deeply troubling for a number of reasons. First, it illustrates that the government, despite lip service about diversity and fairness, maintains a lopsided view of inclusiveness that fences out people of faith. In other words, the government’s “tolerance” will not tolerate citizens seeking to live in a way that—God forbid—complies with the dictates of their conscience.

Second, in their reckless attempt to appease local homosexual activists, these government officials have acted unconstitutionally. The government cannot retaliate against a business for that business’s exercise of its right—protected by the First Amendment—not to promote an unwanted message. Yet by doing precisely that, these government officials subject themselves to a costly lawsuit and an immense waste of taxpayer dollars.

Third, it’s no secret that times are tough in this economy, and the public rightly expects its government officials to create jobs. But by callously stripping large amounts of business from this local company, the government has directly jeopardized the livelihood of the more than 30 Hands On Originals’ employees.

Simply put, Lexington should seriously consider reversing course. Its actions have not only propagated a cramped view of tolerance; it has violated the Constitution and sacrificed local jobs in the process. Many people are already speaking up to support Hands On Originals, and once the larger masses catch wind of this injustice, the uproar rising out of Lexington won’t be the cheers of Kentucky basketball fans. Rather, it will be the indignation of citizens demanding true tolerance for all, especially the owners and employees of Hands On Originals.

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