Last week, Georgia attempted to do something real dumb — the “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.” And based on the title alone I could smell trouble a mile away.
According to CNN, the law “allows a private company to ignore state law that ‘directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails or denies’ a person’s religious beliefs.” Other states, apparently, are considering similar laws.
The biggest thing wrong with this law is it protects only a certain group’s rights, in this case — it’s the religious. I’m vehemently against group rights, and as an atheist, this also rubs me the wrong way because it gives credibility to a certain number (but certainly not all) of religious people who want to deny others rights for pretty irrational reasons. Despite my annoyance with some religious people’s irrational beliefs towards others, I do think they should be able to discriminate against and serve whomever they want.
But, why not extend this right to everyone?
Yes, I’m totally OK with someone barring me from their establishment because I’m black, straight, an atheist, a libertarian, a woman or whatever. Why would I want to give (or force someone to take) my money or time to someone who doesn’t want me at their business? Makes no sense.
There are probably those who think worst-case scenarios if laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were repealed. If anything, however, repealing anti-discrimination laws would make it easier to know whose businesses not to support. Maybe libertarians have a more optimistic outlook than others? We are not in the same era as segregation.
Yes, there are jerks out there you will run into because they don’t like the clothes you wear, your beliefs or [insert anything else] — but they will always be around regardless of the law. But, again, why would you support a business that does not support YOU. Refuse to buy products and services businesses whose values you don’t support.
For example, in Oregon, a bakery was charged with fines for refusing to do a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. In principle, libertarians should be for protecting the individual and property rights of everyone, not just those they agree with. That’s why I can set aside my annoyance with anti-gay religious people and still be dismayed about the outcome of the story — because it’s their business and not mine. But instead of fining them, I would rather see people network and find gay-friendly bakeries — or perhaps create one. Surely, there are people, once they found out about the owners views, who no longer buy their cakes.
People are incredibly resourceful.
If there is one takeaway from this it’s that religious freedom isn’t something to protect— but individual freedom certainly is worth it. Instead of passing laws protecting groups, get rid of the laws that get in the way of individual rights.