“We don’t serve your kind here”

When you have a high school senior, your schedule at the end of the school year is frenetic. But I’m back in the saddle again.

A Manhattan court recently ruled that a bar could refuse to serve someone wearing a MAGA hat. I agree with that ruling. Why I agree, and the difference between freedom of speech and freedom from discrimination, is what I talk about this episode.

Mentioned links:

Judge: Bars are allowed to throw out Trump supporters

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Show transcript

Stop me if you’ve heard this. A guy goes into a bar wearing a baseball cap. The bartender says, “We don’t serve people like you”, and throws him out. The guy takes the bartender to court and the judge says, “What is this, a punchline? Case dismissed!” Unfortunately, this isn’t a joke. Let’s get a little more specific.

Greg Piatek walked into a New York City bar, called “The Happiest Hour”, wearing a baseball cap; not one from a baseball team, but a Trump “Make America Great Again” cap. At one point, the bartender said, “Anyone who supports Trump — or believes in what you believe — is not welcome here! And you need to leave right now because we won’t serve you!”

Can you really do this? Can a public bar refuse service to someone based on what they think? Well, a Manhattan judge says that you certainly can.

The bar’s lawyer, Elizabeth Conway, pointed out that only religious, and not political, beliefs are protected under state and city discrimination laws, saying, “supporting Trump is not a religion”. This is the problem when you have laws that protect specific groups of people. The politicians get to decide who deserves protection. The law isn’t protecting against discrimination in general. If you are a protected class, you’re in. If not, tough luck.

Piatek’s lawyer, Paul Liggieri, tried to play the legal game by suggesting that Piatek’s beliefs were spiritual in nature, but the judge didn’t find that remotely plausible. I agree, but I gotta’ hand it to Liggieri; it was worth a shot.

The judge ultimately said, “Here the claim that plaintiff was not served and eventually escorted out of the bar because of his perceived support for President Trump is not outrageous conduct.” Yup, viewpoint discrimination at a public place is no big deal in Manhattan.

Welcome to America! Here, you can kick a person out of your business just because of what they think. Also, if someone comes to you to, say, commission a specific work of art, like say, a custom designed cake, you must comply or face re-education. The difference? Well, it’s all about who the government prefers to protect. Equal justice under the law…or something.

You might be saying to your podcast playing device, “But wait a minute, Doug! Aren’t you always beating the drum for protection for religious groups?” Yes, that’s very true, but there is a difference between these protections. Allow me to explain.

Religious freedom is the freedom to exercise your religion in your daily life, both in the public square and in private, as an individual and as a business owner. That is specifically protected by the First Amendment. Exercising your religion should not come with a penalty inasmuch as that exercise lines up with other shared values. Child sacrifice might be part of your religion, but it will still get you put in jail. Over time, the idea has been to be as least restrictive as possible of religious expression, with the government getting out of the way of it as much as possible.

And that’s the standard I think we need to keep to; government out of the way except in extraordinary circumstances. I would suggest that anyone ought to be able to refuse doing business for any reason. In that I am consistent. “But what about Jim Crow laws?”, you might ask. Great question. When the 1 or 2 hotels in town excluded blacks, that was a severe hardship that required extraordinary intervention. When there are dozens of hotels within a 10-mile radius, I’d say if a hotel wants to discriminate like that, let them feel the wrath of the local community and visitors by going out of business because no one wants to do business with racists. And if they do manage to eek out an existence, well, at least you know where all the racists are.

You could even discriminate against religious people. And that’s the difference. First Amendment protection is not freedom from discrimination; it’s allowing the exercise of religion, in your personal and public life, free from government interference. But you would have the freedom to discriminate against those religious people, or even guys with MAGA hats. My issue is that, if you really think that bartender is in the right, or that Sophie Thealet is within her rights to design dresses for Michelle Obama but should be allowed to refuse to create something for Melania Trump, but also tell a Christian to “Bake the cake, bigot!”, then you are being inconsistent in your application of your principles. And that’s what this about; consistent principles. Otherwise, it’s all about politics, not principles.

Filed under: Free SpeechGovernmentTolerance and Diversity