The right to discriminate includes the right to fire people

A news editor is suing his old employer after they fired him for writing an article on his personal blog that ran afoul of the Commissariat for External Thought Crimes. After canning him, they proceeded to publish an editorial denouncing him.

What he wrote and why they fired him are, in my opinion, beside the point. Conservative groups like Heritage Foundation will no doubt scream bloody murder and rave about how this, like the whole Duck Dynasty drama, is another example of religious discrimination and a reflection of our nation’s cultural warfare – which to a point they are right.

Yes, the newspaper publisher discriminated against this editor. As they and any employer should have the right to do.

Future of Freedom Foundation president Jacob Hornberger writes:

A person has the fundamental right to associate with anyone he chooses and on any basis he chooses. He might be the biggest bigot in the world, choosing only to associate with white supremacists, but that’s what freedom is all about — the right to make whatever choices one wants in his life, so long as his conduct is peaceful — i.e., no murder, rape, theft, fraud, or other violent assaults against others.

Writing about a Florida bill prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy, Laurence Vance explains how it isn’t about why someone discriminates, but that he be free to do so.

To ban discrimination is to ban freedom of thought and freedom of association. Everyone in a free society should have the right to think whatever he wants to think about anyone else and to choose to associate or not associate, in both personal or business relationships, with anyone on the basis of those thoughts. His thoughts may be erroneous, illogical, irrational, or unreasonable, his opinions may be based on stereotypes, prejudice, bigotry, or racism—but in a free society everyone is entitled to his own thoughts and opinions.

Even though opponents of individual liberty and a free society don’t want to hear it, and even though some defenders of these things shy away from the issue, a truly free society must include the freedom to discriminate against any individual or group.

Ignore all the details to the story. They don’t matter. Forget about whether the newspaper was a complete fool to fire an editor for something that will inevitably hurt their bottom line at a time when traditional print newspapers are either sinking or trying to stay afloat and then publish an editorial besmirching his character.

It comes down to voluntary interaction and contracts. Unless the publisher violated a part of their contract, their decision to fire him was not a violation of his rights. Discrimination in the workplace, while foolish, stupid, and counterproductive, doesn’t violate one’s rights, because people do not have a right to their job.

This newspaper believes it had the right to discriminate against this editor.

Wonderful. Don’t forget discrimination is a two-way street. The door swings both ways. Or it’s supposed to.

And here’s where conservative groups get it right: There’s a glaring double standard when it comes to who you can and cannot fire and for what reasons. People have openly ridiculed my religious faith, ethnicity, gender, and political views in the workplace – to my face. It’s safe to say if I had said anything remotely offensive to them I would have been filing for unemployment the next day.

The trouble with the conservatives is they are guilty of the same hypocrisy, because they refuse to apply the freedom of association principle to everyone, including people they don’t like.

What we have in our society is a form of speech codes. You are allowed the freedom of speech, but if you say certain things people are given the right to do things they would not be allowed to do legally against someone who holds a view classified within the realm of acceptable opinion.

In other words, people are given the right to discriminate only against those the State deems appropriate. Everyone else has the State’s protection.

Who the people are on either side of this fence all depends on the popular mood.

Those who prefer to hyper-focus on what exactly the editor said or the precise reason for why the newspaper did what they did completely miss the point. The editor has the right to blog as he wishes, as long as it is allowed under his employment contract (which according to Todd Starnes it was). The newspaper also had the right to terminate his employment.

The source of all the woe is that discrimination is allowed against certain people but prohibited against others based on the popularity of the views. If we’re allowed to discriminate against people, then it should be entirely discretionary.

I weep not for the editor nor the newspaper, who no doubt will be the eventual loser in this situation regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome. The editor will have no trouble finding a conservative group willing to hire someone who has been discriminated against for their religious faith. Meanwhile, the newspaper will not gain any new readers or advertisers for this.

I can already see the response someone might give to me, implying either I side with the newspaper’s views or the editor’s. It’s because people automatically assume anyone who defends someone’s right to speak or discriminate agrees with what was said or the manner of discrimination. It’s known as emotional reasoning, in which a person determines the morality of an action based on their initial emotional reaction rather than the facts or evidence.

Amazingly, this kind of illogic is rife even among free speech advocates and libertarians, who should know better.

It’s a phenomenon I’ve observed in other similar situations where alleged proponents of free speech suddenly become mutes when someone says something they don’t like and gets persecuted for it. In reality, they are only outspoken in defending the rights of people who think just like them.

Everyone trades places concerning the right to discriminate when it’s their people being discriminated against.

Case in point: A vice principal of a local private Catholic high school in my area was fired after it was revealed he had married his male partner. The school was aware that he was gay when they hired him, but had him sign a contract saying he would not get married while he was working for the school. He did, and was subsequently fired for violating the terms of the contract. He is now suing them.

To be sure, there is a difference in the cases. The vice principal specifically violated the terms of his contract, which he agreed to before signing the document. The editor did not. And the school did not send out a press release belittling the vice principal’s sexual orientation.

Nevertheless, the response in the media and the community to the vice principal’s firing was that of outrage. How dare they discriminate! At the same time, the conservative community pointed out that it was a private religious school and they have a right to hire and fire anyone if they do not conform to their religious criteria.

The roles completely switched when Phil Robertson was initially fired from Duck Dynasty for his remarks on sex in a magazine interview. Conservatives yelled of religious persecution while progressives sang “A&E had the right to fire him” and “Haven’t you heard of the First Amendment?” ad nauseam, not realizing they, as well as the conservative community, had sung a different tune not too long ago.

The word hypocrisy comes to mind, for some reason.

Private schools have the right to fire gay vice principals just as much as newspapers have the right to fire religious editors for their views. We may not like it, we may loathe and detest those who do so, but libertarianism is not about promoting ideology or religion. It is about freedom, even the freedom to do what everyone else thinks is wrong.

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One Response to The right to discriminate includes the right to fire people

  1. Pingback: Is America Becoming Like East Germany? | The Anarchist Notebook | Libertarian Anarchy

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