Thoughts on Discrimination
In a former life and career, I was an EEO counselor in the Federal sector (of the Justice Department in fact). I helped a lot of people with many issues. I am literally sworn to secrecy about the details of those cases. I can tell you this: everything that doesn’t go your way is not necessarily rooted in discrimination. The creature from the “discrimination lagoon” does not always crawl out of the muck and mire to keep you from being happy. Life is not fair, and the ball does not always bounce your way.
What I do know is this: the laws concerning discrimination and the EEOC come from Title VII (as amended), of the Civil Rights Act which was passed in 1964, more than 50 years ago! I am not an attorney and will not get into the weeds of the laws, but what I would like to point out is that discrimination is not necessarily always illegal. It is just not legal for certain things that are available to everyone. Being denied, in and of itself, is not necessarily “discrimination,” but there are those and there are communities who would want you to believe that is not the case.
Here are a few hypothetical examples to test what I am saying:
I apply for a job and am an OU grad, and someone else is hired because they went to OSU. That, in a way, is a form of “discrimination.” Even if I am more qualified. It is not necessarily against the law to discriminate based on where I am from, where I went to school or even how I look.
A family owns a catering business which specializes in Bar-B-Q, smoked chicken, and American western food such as brisket and baked beans, potato salad, etc. An Asian family walks in and asks them to cater their function with egg rolls, sushi, white and fried rice, chow mein, etc. The business politely denies their request. It is not what they do. It is not on the menu. This is not only legal, it is not even discrimination. They don’t provide that preferred product to the desire of the customer.
What if a cult member walks into Mardel’s or LifeWay bookstore and wants to know where the dagger with the goat head handles are kept? Would they be able to sue because they don’t provide for all religious groups? What people seem to not understand in the realm of discrimination is the difference between denial based on the person versus being based on the service or the item.
Matt 7: 12-14 Jesus said “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” We shouldn’t be surprised Christians are the minority today in the path we take. Jesus declared most people are going to take the wrong road. (“Many” vs “few”) Like mom used to say, “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?”
In other words, if I have a store open to the public, with items on display, by law, anyone may come in and purchase anything I have for sale, and I may not deny them because I don’t like something about them. That is reasonable and fair. We all agree. The law also requires me to provide accommodation and access to folks with mobility challenges as well. It is an additional burden, but I can understand that also.
What is not reasonable or fair is for me to be forced to produce something I don’t do in the ordinary course of my business. I definitely should not have to do something against my conscience or faith (unless it causes a public safety concern, which is a blog topic for another day).
So thinking of another hypothetical: I am a Christian who owns a bakery. I get some requests to make a cake—one has bad language, another glorifies the drug culture, and another celebrates a same-sex wedding. If I personally object to these special orders, should that negate my right to operate a business? I think not. It defines my stance on morality. It is not what I do. It is not on my menu of items. I cannot accommodate those requests based on my belief system as well as my lack of understanding of those lifestyles and cultures. You are welcome to buy this plain-tiered cake in the window and go decorate it however you desire, but I should not be forced to support those desires. Nor should I be forced to make you a special cake and be forced to participate in your ceremony by delivering it. And that, I contend, is not illegal discrimination; that is my legal discretion.
So you see, some discrimination is not inherently bad or illegal. I “discriminate” when I choose salad over a cheeseburger. Should the beef industry take me to court?