Guest Commentary

Yes, it is your God-given right to discriminate. That doesn’t mean it’s right

Ron Calzone
Ron Calzone

A recent Kansas City Star editorial unfairly implied that I believed that “private business signs that say “whites only” or “no Irish need apply” or “no women allowed” are still acceptable, even laudable” based on testimony I gave to a Missouri House committee against MONA, the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act.

I told the committee, “I believe that we have a God-given right to discriminate,” and I stand by that. But my goal is protecting personal liberty, not encouraging unjust discrimination. Defending someone’s right to do something without retaliation from the government is not the same as saying it is acceptable or laudable to do that thing.

I see two challenges in society: a lack of understanding of the word “discrimination,” and a disagreement about what it is appropriate to discriminate against (what is evil, in other words). My goal is to get people to have more respect for where others draw their personal line.

Use moral persuasion to change hearts and minds, not the law. The Star has graciously allowed me this opportunity for rebuttal.

Average Missourians would agree MONA is worthy of debate: Should the law force a school to allow a young transgender person who is transitioning from male to female to use the girls’ locker room and shower? Isn’t it an infringement on the rights of girls when a boy transitioning to a girl is allowed to compete with the girls in sports traditionally segregated by gender, such as wrestling, track or even cycling?

Those are controversial public policy issues, but here we will use a principles-based approach to determine whether it is appropriate for the government to force private parties to participate in the LGBT movement, as would be required by the MONA bill.

Legislating from deeply-held convictions — including religious convictions on both sides of the MONA debate — means that any government intervention would prejudice one side or the other. When government is used to enforce values-based policy, the situation is ripe for state-empowered injustice, as we saw with Jim Crow laws.

However, a free market of ideas and personal actions naturally strikes the proper balance.

Between 2006 and 2012, I spent a great deal of time and treasure trying to protect property owners from politically-connected contractors’ abuse of the government’s power of eminent domain to take homes and small business for their private gain. It was then I realized that property rights are at the core of all the freedoms and liberties we value most.

In 1792, James Madison explained that “property” is not just about bricks and mortar. He wrote:

“A man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them. He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them. He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person. He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them.”

The idea that we own ourselves is the basis for everything from freedom of the press to freedom of speech, personal religious freedom, freedom of assembly and association, habeas corpus and much more.

Property rights were at the core of the abolition of slavery.

And, yes, property rights are the reason it would be unconstitutional to pass a law forbidding someone from being L, G, B or T. (And I would be opposed to such a law.)

Madison went on to say, “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort. … This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.”

MONA would demolish our most important personal property rights by using the force of law to make private parties participate in, and associate with, things against their personally held convictions. The high moral road is to respect everyone’s property rights — on all sides of the MONA issue.

In a free society, the white supremacist may elect not to share his property with a black man, and the rest of us may very well elect not to associate with the white supremacist. Some — me included — would go so far as to say that they have a duty to boycott the white supremacist’s business and to righteously discriminate against unrighteous discrimination.

The market always works better than government.

Ron Calzone is a rancher, small business owner and longtime citizen activist for constitutional government and free-market principles.