[Harper's Ferry, 2010, JA Van Devender]
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.
One more nail was hammered into Liberty's Coffin in the recent Supreme Court's "refusal to hear" the case of Elaine Huegenin.
[Among others, HERE]
The crux of the question is straight forward: "Does an individual, engaged in private enterprise, have the right to decline services to another individual as a matter of simple preference to so decline that service?"
In this instance, Heugenin declined to contract to photograph a wedding ceremony for two lesbians. She was up front in her denial... it was for religious reasons in that it would violate her conscience to participate (or perhaps even attend) such a thing. She was fined $6.6k by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. So, this wasn't just a civil suit ... it was a "crime."
The argument advanced against her right of refusal, is that any service offered to the public cannot be with-held from any person who wishes to purchase that service based on the usual race, religion, gender, etc. grounds. What this effectively means is that embarking on commercial ventures implicitly requires the business owner to voluntarily yield up his or her freedom to choose customers.
I wonder if anyone has ever sued those businesses that have a sign saying "no shoes, no shirt, no service." Taken to the extreme, what about the increasingly prevalent acceptance of nudity. Would it be a violation for a photographer to refuse a contract involving a nudist wedding? Where and what grounds can a line be drawn? [Nudist groups are making a case that they are being discriminated against unfairly because they can't go about in public without clothes... I don't recommend a google search on this ... just go to some newspaper like the New York Times and search on that site... you probably won't get "flashed" there].
There is no need to rehash my position, stated many times, regarding the institution of marriage and the moral status of homosexuality. I'm not going to dwell on that side of the issue. Neither am I going to flinch at the idea that the freedom to withhold service could also apply to discrimination on the basis of race. Until someone demonstrates why a contract for services rendered, whether at a drug store lunch counter or a photographer's skill, is not a two way street - wherein the purchaser has the right to not sign the offered contract for any reason he or she decides, and the offerer has the right to not offer a contract for any reason he or she decides, is fundamentally in error - I will continue to argue that this freedom is worth any potential abuses that may arise from it.
This argument is only with regard to private enterprise. Those governmental and government sponsored programs, where tax dollars are being spent, tax dollars that are taken from the entire population, do not have this freedom. Because so many businesses do profit from government funded programs either through contractual relations or by direct subsidy or whatever, then the government has a perfect right to require adherence to its own standards as a condition for such funding. OK, I get that.
But for those few remaining hardy souls who are aggressively independent of government subsidies or contracts, they should be left alone in their freedom to be "bigots" if such is the case, or "conscientious" in their religious beliefs it that is situation.
I know of one excellent college that completely remains untouched by federal or state funds. They will not accept government backed student loans for example. It has a world class reputation, especially in Engineering and the Humanities and has an active and very accomplished alumni organization. This school, as was Harvard when it was founded, has a Christian foundation and adheres to Christian standards in student behavior and presentation.
Under this ruling, that school, it appears to me, will have to either shut down or abandon its primary purpose.
This is an abuse of power and people in this country had better move from the emotional, knee-jerk reactions to any form of discrimination at all, to a more insightful look at what's really involved. When any man's freedom, even a bigot's, is curtailed coercively, we all are placed at risk. When freedom is promoted, and coercive structures that inhibit freedom are removed, then, I believe, we all have grounds for hope.