Government

Nope, You Don't Have A Guaranteed Freedom From Feeling Offended

We talk a lot about rights in this country. But do our rights mean we're protected from ever feeling offended?

Photo: Shutterstock.com

You’ve see the signs a million times before. In fact, they are relatively commonplace.

They read something like this: Guns banned on this premise.

I see one every time I open the door to the gym I attend.

It means that the owner either doesn’t feel comfortable with the Second Amendment as a matter of opinion, or thinks that somehow by banning guns on the premise, the chances of gun-related violence diminish.

Whatever the reason, the premise is simple: the owner doesn’t want guns. So, despite the fact that state and federal laws allow me to (with the correct permits) carry a gun legally, I can’t bring one to that establishment because that owner’s convictions or conclusions about firearms reign supreme.

As well they should.

[sharequote align="center"]Equality as it pertains to our basic rights is vital. And it can have no exceptions.[/sharequote]

It’s that person’s private property, and as such they have a right to establish whatever behavioral parameters they want—so long as they’re not calling for someone’s harm. And you, free citizen of America, aren’t forced to frequent that business.

Here’s the reality of the situation. Sometimes exercising your right to do as you please on your private property means you’re eventually going to offend someone. (And yes—private property includes your business. You hold a deed to your business' building just like you hold a deed to your private residence, do you not?)

Guess what. We do not have a guaranteed freedom from feeling offended.

Take a moment and imagine if everyone had a guaranteed, enforceable, Constitutionally-protected right to freedom from feeling offended. The world would come to a literal halt.

Do you know why that can’t possibly work?

Because guaranteeing one person’s right to “freedom from feeling offended” means you will absolutely, unequivocally curtail the rights of someone else.

If you tell John Doe that he’s guaranteed to never feel offended, you’d either have to ensure that every single person agrees 100 percent with John Doe’s beliefs, or you’re going to tell an awful lot of people to keep their mouths shut (thus—curtailing their right to freedom from feeling offended).

See? It’s a vicious circle.

Thankfully, there’s a solution. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

(Photo: Shutterstock.com) (Photo: Shutterstock.com) 

Let’s take this conversation to a couple of places: California, Arkansas, and Indiana, respectively.

California

In 2010, five students were sent home for refusing to remove clothing that showed an American flag—all because they were wearing it on Cinco de Mayo, and the school wanted to avoid possible conflict.

At the same time, “more than 100 students were spotted wearing the colors of the Mexican flag -- red, white and green -- as they left school, including some who had the flag painted on their faces or arms.”

Despite this obvious double standard, the Supreme Court recently ruled against the students’ families’ petition to have their right to their free speech in a public institution upheld.

Had it been a privately owned school, then the argument is moot. And, not unlike my example of my gym’s prohibition of guns, the owner of the private school should be allowed to do make whatever judgment calls he or she wants—however outlandish they may or may not be—so long as no one is being harmed and no laws are being broken.

The fact that it’s a public school makes it a totally different discussion. The parameters of their existence mean they don’t get the luxury (like a private entity) of expressing a preference pertaining to, for example, politics or religion, within their walls—even though they so often do. (And no, this isn't meant to be construed into meaning that we ignore or supress our nation's Judeo-Christian history)

This California school is a perfect example: it gave deference to the Mexican students in order that they could freely honor a Mexican holiday, yet forced non-Mexican students to hide their display of patriotism for the United States on that same day.

Indiana and Arkansas

Indiana (with Arkansas undoubtedly to follow suit with the passage of similar law) is in incredibly hot water, all because the state passed a law (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) that protects people from being forced to break with their faith.

Photo credit: Shutterstock 

While its basis is rooted in the Hobby Lobby case (in which the chain took issue with the Affordable Care Act’s provision that would require them to violate their religious beliefs towards abortofacient contraceptives) the law would also extend to cases similar to those of the New Mexico photographer who declined to photograph a gay wedding and the Colorado bakers who for the same reasons declined to bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding, and so on.

In other words, it would allow a business owner to refuse certain parts of their services to people (no, not to put up a “gays not welcome here sign”) if those services would force the owner to violate their deeply-held religious beliefs.

The outrage holds that the law(s) discriminate against homosexuals specifically, and that the customer’s desires trump the business owner’s right to hold a religious belief.

Note: while neither states’ laws originally referenced the LGBTA community—(it was implied given the context), Indiana has now amended the law to include language that "prohibits a provider from using the new law to refuse services, facilities, goods, employment or housing to anyone based on sexual orientation or gender identity," stating that the U.S. and State Constitutions still enshrine protections for matters of conscience. Arkansas similarly modified the language in their state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, after a firestorm of controversy ensued there as well.

What’s the answer?

In the case of California, the flag-wearing students’ personal right to free speech was curtailed so that the Mexican students wouldn’t be offended. In the cases of the business owners, their personal right to religious freedom was curtailed in order that the homosexual couples involved wouldn’t be offended by the suggestion that there are people who don’t condone their lifestyle.

Here’s the deal. In neither case was there, nor is there a call to prohibit their behavior in any way.

There wasn’t a demand that the Mexican students to stop celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Similarly, the business owners weren’t demanding that the gay couples be banned from marrying.

So to those who opposed the students in California, and to those who oppose Indiana and Arkansas—what’s your alternative?

What would you put into place to ensure that no one’s rights are limited?

You see, the beauty of our Constitution is that it guarantees equality of certain basic freedoms, insomuch as exercising those freedoms does not interfere with the fundamental rights of others.

For example, someone’s religious freedom isn’t protected if they use it to harm others, as is the case of honor killings in Shariah Law.

Having a baker politely decline to paricipate in your wedding doesn’t deny you a fundamental right—even if it is offensive to you. We do not have the right to have everyone agree with us and cater to those beliefs-- no matter what.

At the end of the day, the idea behind these laws is to afford everyone the very same protections.

The same law that would protect a Christian baker from having to participate in a gay wedding ceremony is the very same law that would protect a gay bakery owner from having to bake a cake for an anti-gay celebration put on by the Westboro Baptists.

Did you ever stop to think about that?

Equality as it pertains to our basic rights is vital. And it can have no exceptions.

Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com (a political commentary blog), and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show (TheBlaze Radio Network, Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m. ET). She can be reached at: afuturefree@aol.com; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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