Discriminating Business

Misplaced Grace started an interesting conversation about whether religious business owners could cherry pick from the public who they wished to provide goods or services to, which is discriminating against members of the public they dislike.

Anyone who is providing goods or services to the public may not cherry pick from said public. Everyone gets to drink from fountains in the public square.

The only way for religious organizations to be able to legally discriminate is if they are membership driven organizations and only provide services to members and they can define membership how they want.

Sort of like a certain Vancouver Golf club that had a private lounge that was men only and the women of the club – who were paying something like $10,000 annual fees to be members – tried to sue for gender discrimination to have the lounge open to women. They lost, because they accepted the terms when they joined and being a member wasn’t a requirement of basic life dignity  – there are other golf clubs.

But even this is problematic, since more often than not, it’s business going on in the lounges, deal brokering, networking – what woman can compete in the corporations when they don’t have the same access to senior management and opportunities for networking?

It’s the old boys club self perpetuation.

So too is refusing services that are otherwise available to anyone who can afford them.

Private sector businesses, operate in the public square. They are not private in the way that your home is private.

It is an affront to personal dignity to be denied services or goods that are customarily available to the paying public just because you have some characteristic that the business owner disproves of.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a straight couple being kicked out of a gay club or a church group refusing to rent a hall for a gay wedding – if the public can walk in off the street and order a drink or book the venue, then the characteristics of the consumer cannot be used as justification to withhold services or goods.

People should not have to resort to human rights complaints, lawsuits, protests and boycotts – it’s exhausting and a waste of time – and groups and businesses should know better than to give cause to start any of that.

And since religion is given so much tax preferential treatment, perhaps it’s critically more important that they above all, not be permitted to discriminate.

Unless they want to give up the tax status and be membership driven and not provide services to the public; then they can freely promote whatever view they like that will attract paying membership to support them and discriminate against non-members.