Paula Deen and the Civil Rights Act of 1964

July 9, 2013

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Passed at a time when racial discrimination in America was at its height, the act appropriately addressed discriminatory practices by government institutions.  For example, Titles I, III, and IV of the act, made it illegal for government to:  impose unequal application of voter registration requirements, deny access to public facilities on grounds of race, color, religion, or national origin, and continue to segregate public schools.

Two other titles, however, have always been controversial – Title II dealing with public accommodations and Title VII dealing with employment discrimination.  Both should be repealed.

Now, it’s not hard to understand why these mandates were included in the act at that time.  People of color being denied access to lunch counters and hotel accommodations were commonplace.  Discriminatory employment practices were rampant.

But, a lot has changed since 1964.  Take Paula Deen’s current so-called racial slur controversy.  By her simply admitting in a legal deposition that she used the N-word decades ago, she has been financially devastated.  To date, 12 companies have discontinued their relationship with her including Random House, Food Network, Smithfield, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, J.C. Penney, Sears, Walgreens, and QVC.  In the end, the loss to her bottom line will be in the tens of millions of dollars and this doesn’t even include potential lost sales at her restaurants due to the scandal.  Again, this is simply for admitting the use of a derogatory racial term a long time ago.

It is reasonable to believe that the reaction would be the same if Deen had denied service to or refused to hire people of color at her restaurants.

Also, let’s not forget that we live in an age where political revolutions are organized through social networking and the rescue of a dog from tornado rubble is seen on live TV.  In fact, that poignant scene inspired many to send money to help the pup and his master recover from the tornado’s destruction.

Thus, technology has become the great enabler.  It provides us with information and then gives us a platform to act.  If Deen had denied her lunch counter to anyone, a simple text message to a news outlet would publicize the event widely.  A campaign through facebook, Twitter, or any of the other social networks could be launched to boycott or picket the restaurant.  Instead of violating her property rights, the market with assistance from technology could right the injustice.

And that is what this really comes down to – property rights.  Titles II and VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, with the best of intentions, trampled on property rights in America.   As Ron Paul has so eloquently stated, “The rights of private property owners, even those whose actions decent people find abhorrent, must be respected if we are to maintain a free society.  That is why Titles II and VII should be repealed and why the market should be employed instead to right injustice.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a residence in North Carolina.

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Thought Nazis

August 2, 2012

On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.  The legislation appropriately outlawed discriminatory practices of government based on race, color, religion or national origin.  But, it also outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin in so-called public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce (Titles II and VII).  Controversial to say the least, unconstitutional to say the most, the Act prohibited private businesses from having free rein in terms of who they serve and employ.  As Congressman Ron Paul has noted, “The result was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract…  The framers of the Constitution intended the interstate commerce clause to create a free trade zone among the states, not to give the federal government regulatory power over every business that has any connection with interstate commerce.”

Recently, there has been a big stink made about the anti-same sex marriage comments of Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy.  Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno has threatened to block permits for the fast food chicken chain to operate in his ward.  Boston Mayor Thomas Menino issued his own threat to the company by stating, “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

What ‘s interesting is that the comments of Dan Cathy broke no laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, yet these politicians are condoning taking his property rights away from him without constitutionally guaranteed due process of law.

Now, there is apparently no way for Moreno and Menino to legally deny permits to Chick-fil-A based solely on the comments of its president.  But, in this era of the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, this incident further raises serious questions about the future of our constitutionally protected liberties.

In the first place, will our elected officials eventually have the power to personally deny property rights to individuals or businesses based on what they believe or the words they utter from their lips?  In essence, this is what Moreno and Menino are advocating.

Secondly, what does the future hold for freedom of speech?  This country was founded on the words of Voltaire, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”  Thus we have always believed that even the most vile, despicable speech should be protected.  Cathy’s speech was neither and was a simple proclamation of what many Americans believe themselves.  Are we almost to the point where the oppressive power of government can be employed to crush all opinion not held by our governing elites?  Are we willing to allow them to use brute force to destroy the First Amendment and manipulate society to further their ends and agenda?  Have we, as a people, forgotten that the best means to protest or condone ideas is through the free market?

In the final analysis, Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 opened the door for this ridiculous episode.  By codifying in law this massive violation of property rights Merino and Menino have taken a bad law to a new extreme.  They in essence have become Thought Nazis – individuals no longer content with just violating property rights, but with also punishing any speech that runs counter to their societal ideals.  Along with the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, this mentality spells trouble for the future of our constitutionally protected liberties in America.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina.


Grand Rapids Woman Harassed by Fair Housing Do-Gooder

October 26, 2010

The tax-exempt non-profit Fair Housing Center (FHC) of West Michigan recently filed a housing discrimination charge against a Grand Rapids, Michigan women (let’s call her Victim) who posted an advertisement on her church’s bulletin board looking for a “Christian” roommate.  According to Nancy Haynes of the FHC, because Victim’s ad specifically states she is offering only for a “Christian” individual to apply it is a strict violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.  Truth be told, the only violation in this situation is of Victim’s constitutional rights.

In the first place, the Fair Housing Act is unconstitutional.  I know I sound like a broken record.  Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution does not mention the regulation of housing as an enumerated power of Congress.  Thus, housing falls under the jurisdiction of state power in our system of federalism.  Since the ad in question is not a violation of Michigan state law the actions of the FHC of West Michigan amount to little more than legal harassment of a property owner.

Naturally, that is not the way Ms. Haynes sees it.  She does admit that Victim “…can actually, in practice, not rent to a non-Christian.  But she can’t make the statement.  The statement alone is a violation of the act.  What she can do in practice she can’t make a statement about”.  This is sort of like the “don’t ask, don’t tell” of the rental housing business.  What sense does it make?  It seems the law was only written to make lawyers rich.  What else is new, right?  In essence, the Fair Housing Act is not about anti-discrimination after all – it is solely about political correctness.  This, of course, makes all the politicians who over the decades have proclaimed the law fights discrimination in housing liars.  Surprise, surprise!

Whatever the Fair Housing Act does it is also unconstitutional because it violates the constitutional rights of property owners.  Freedom of speech and the free exercise of one’s religion are bedrock rights held by every American.  Victim is being denied both by the Fair Housing Act.  What’s more, the 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution prohibit the deprivation of life, liberty, and property without “due process of law”.  Victim has not been accused of a crime and has not been afforded due process of law.  By placing stipulations on how Victim can use her property the government is essentially depriving her of the full use thereof.

The big question is, how did we get to this point in America?  How is it that a church parishioner who is simply looking for a roommate of the same faith got so entangled in a legal quagmire?  It’s quite simple.  There has been an erosion of property rights in America since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law.  The Act rightly banned government from passing laws which segregated lunch counters, water fountains, and buses, but it went too far when it reclassified certain private property as public property, thus violating the constitutional rights of property owners.  In other words, as repugnant as discrimination is, Congress had no constitutional right to force any business owner to serve anyone they didn’t want to.  The 1964 Act opened the floodgates for violations of property rights like the one experienced by Victim.

In the final analysis, Congress does not have the authority to regulate housing let alone pass laws that violate the constitutional rights of Americans.  But, since at least the 1960s that is precisely what it has done.  Instead of letting the free market and local communities deal with undesirable behavior, Washington uses force to tread upon the constitutional rights of our friend Victim and millions of others.  Until Americans elect property rights representatives to Congress the violations will continue.  So in the meantime be careful about how you use your own property.

Article first published as Grand Rapids Woman Harassed by Fair Housing Do-Gooder on Blogcritics.