Saturday, November 17, 2012

The right to run your own business

My cousin sent me a link to this story out of Toronto.  A woman went to a barber shop run by a Muslim and he refused to cut her hair on the grounds that his religion does not allow him to cut the hair of a woman who is not his relative.  His barbershop is exclusively for men so this was not a case of him just not wanting to cut this specific woman's hair.

So what does a reasonable person do?  Well, find another barbershop would be my suggestion.  Her solution was to file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.  For those of you who perhaps aren't from Canada and have never heard of something called a Human Rights Commission in a free country, the HRCs are basically kangaroo courts where politically correct ideas can be forced on an unsuspecting public.  Until a couple years ago, for example, Canadian HRCs had never found someone "not guilty".  The rules of evidence don't apply and as a defendant you basically have no rights or protections. 

My cousin points out that the fact that it is news is, in fact, good news for us, that perhaps the very newsworthiness of the story suggests that it is out of the ordinary.  I might tend to agree if there didn't seem to be an increasing number of these ridiculous cases, and if they didn't seem to be winning, at least at some levels.

There is a similar case currently working its way through the American legal system, in which the owner of a photography studio declined to photograph the wedding of a gay couple in New Mexico.  The couple brought the lawsuit, the case went to court, thrown out, right?  Well, no.  A New Mexico court ruled that the studio violated the anti-discrimination laws of New Mexico and the NM Appeals Court agreed, confirming the ruling.  The case is waiting a hearing by the NM Supreme Court.

This is a disturbing trend.  Win or lose, the idea that the owner of a business should be required to do business with you, is a pretty far cry from the freedoms that we have taken for granted for many years.  As my cousin wondered, could this type of case require me to work on a Honda Rebel in my Harley shop, even if I don't want to?  A joking stretch, since Honda Rebel owners are not a protected class (yet!), but why should I be required to do business with anyone, protected class or not?  As a free person, does the government have the right to dictate who my customers must be? 

Each of the two cases above stem from a conflict between religious rights and anti-discrimination laws, but each illustrates the problems that arise when the government starts taking sides in business transactions.  Maybe these laws should be repealed completely and everyone be allowed to decide with whom they wish to do business.

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