Should Businesses Have More Rights than Gays, Women and Blacks?

Business rights v human rights.

Business rights v human rights.

Should businesses have more rights than people? In particular, people who are gay, female or black?

Because the US has a history of privileging businesses over historically underprivileged people.

And it’s getting worse. As Harvard’s Kennedy School observes:

While the First Amendment was intended to protect individual freedom of religion, speech and assembly, as well as a free press, corporations have begun to displace individuals as its direct beneficiaries. This ‘shift from individual to business First Amendment cases is recent but accelerating.’

When rights clash, whose should prevail?

When the rights of different groups clash, whose should prevail? Well, who’s more harmed?

What happens when we ask that question about businesses in the state of Indiana, Hobby Lobby, Inc. and business owners v blacks under Jim Crow law.

Jim Crow

Under Jim Crow blacks were greatly harmed. It was difficult to purchase many products and services, get bank loans, or travel and be able to find a hotel room and a bathroom stop. It was also enormously difficult to feel a basic sense of worth and dignity.

Once Jim Crow was overthrown businesses had more customers and made more money.

Hobby Lobby

The US Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling shelters businesses from providing contraception in their insurance plans — if it’s against the business’s “religious beliefs.”

Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby: Business rights v human rights

Expect more abortions. Plus, more women’s health will suffer from un-spaced pregnancies. And more women will have a harder time feeding their families — with too many mouths to feed, or difficultly going to work with many children underfoot.

And how would Hobby Lobby be harmed if the court decision had gone the other way? They might spend more money on birth control. But pregnancy and children’s health care cost a lot more.

And their corporation’s “religious beliefs” would be harmed. More on that later.

Indiana wedding cakes

If gay Indiana couples were refused wedding cakes they’d likely feel a loss of social worth and dignity. As blacks did when they were barred from restaurants, hotels, etc. — or told to enter thru the back door. Or as Jews did when they were forced to walk in the gutters of Nazi Germany.

Without the law, Indiana pastry chefs would make more money.

But not discriminating is against a business’s “religious belief,” so there’s the harm?

Hoosiers, Hobby Lobby and religion

Just how does Hobby Lobby or Cakes ‘R Us manage to read the Bible or attend worship service, anyway?

Jesus said the greatest commandment is love.

Jesus said the greatest commandment was love.

My Mormon husband had once been a liquor clerk at SaveOn. My Mormon friends worked as grocery clerks and rang up coffee, tea and beer. And the Mormon Marriotts have no problem selling coffee, tea, liquor, and porn.

These folks just don’t feel like imposing their religious views on everyone else.

Real religion: Do unto others

Jesus asked his followers to live by the Golden Rule: Do onto others as you would have done onto you.

Jesus said,

Even as ye have done unto the least of these (as you understand “the least of these”) ye have done it unto me.

In fact, Jesus was known for dining with “sinners.”

And when asked which was the greatest commandment, Jesus talked of love. Love God and love your neighbor.

The real motive

The greatest commandment in Christianity is love. It is not loving to treat others with derision. Funny how so many of Jesus’s followers don’t get that.

Actually, creating laws that harm traditionally disempowered groups suggests the real motive:

Sustain hierarchies of power and status. Let everyone know their place. And keep them there.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 10, 2015, in feminism, LGBTQ+, politics/class inequality, race/ethnicity, reproductive rights, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. For many decades, I feel that religion has a big part to say on what people get to when it comes to their choice to offer to them and how others would get to view them. When it comes to religion, it can be challenging to change someone’s perspective, and mostly when they’ve had these beliefs for many decades, it can be hard to accept the differences of others and sometimes not to look at what others have to say. It ends up making them who they are. Not accepting other communities who are different from others can be challenging because many are looking for something to believe. When it comes to religion, all should be welcomed, mostly if they are coming in to believe in something for themselves. A difference that makes them shouldn’t identify whether they will be going to hell or not. People should look past what in front of them and look at what are some of the great positive things they can offer.

  2. Samantha Jervis

    I think that some businesses refuse to serve certain people because of “religious beliefs” is total bull. The sole purpose of a business is to make money, not tell people how they should live their lives. I believe it is a total power trip. Business owners, or even employees get a sense of empowerment over others when they have the right to refuse their goods or services. Or maybe they fear getting a “bad reputation” for serving those people. I think that businesses get more rights than gays, blacks and women because of money. The government knows businesses bring money to the economy so they cater to their wants(even when refusing business makes them lose out on money). But that completely shoots down morality. We aren’t a very moral country if this kind of prejudice is still legal, and I can’t believe it still is. What happened to the land of the free? I guess only rich business owners are free to do what they want, while a gay couple can’t even buy a wedding cake.

  3. The argument I saw on Facebook for allowing an Indiana bakery to refuse gay customers was should a company owned by parents have to serve pedophiles, or should a Jewish bakery have to serve a neo-Nazi. I told this individual that he was utilizing a false equivalency, there is nothing wrong with being gay as being a pedophile or member of a hate group is both wrong and illegal. The only good analogy is would it be ok for a bakery run by gay individuals to refuse to serve someone just because they were straight? The answer is of course, no. Just as it is not okay for a straight bakery to refuse to serve a gay individual only because they’re gay.

    Unsurprisingly the sin that Jesus most abhorred above all was hypocrisy. Considering that I don’t think that Jesus would readily be eating with Hobby Lobby. I think the personifying of corporations is a very dangerous notion, one that our government seems to be doing more and more. More importantly though, who cares who Jesus would or would not have dinner with – we live in a democracy not a theocracy. I also want to know if Hobby Lobby will be denying coverage for Viagra and penis pumps unless only to be utilized for procreation?

  4. First off I would like to start off by saying that I found this topic to be very interesting and that is why I choose to respond to it. I have mixed reviews about this rather touchy subject, because I agree with parties, the business and the people of any race or sexual preference. I think that if you spend x amount of dollars on a business and you own it, you should have the right to refuse service to anyone, because that business is rightfully yours; however that does not mean that you should. I agree one hundred percent about the part when you mentioned Jesus himself did eat amongst sinners, and that you should love your neighbors. So with that being said I feel that everyone should be treated equally regardless other there race or sexual preference. I agree that some of the gays must be feeling like they are being targeted and treated like the blacks and the Jews of the older times, in terms of not being allowed certain things or privileges. I think at the end of the day the person who owns the business has the decision to do whatever they want. I also find this topic to be extremely complex, because you could have Mormons like you mentioned who are against drinking alcohol but yet are cashiers and ring it up for others. With that being said I think everything depends on the views and morals of that specific individual.

    • Just wondering why you think that business owners should have more rights than black people or women or gays? I don’t get it. Why should property rights or money trump other rights? It seems to me that human dignity and – and basic opportunity, such as education, ability to get a bank loan, health and life issues should trump the rights of money. I’m interested to hear your views.

  5. A lot of conservatives believe there is immense opportunity in America, and that with the right attitude and tremendous hard work, anyone can achieve their dreams. Although this is a very nice idea, it is a naive one. It fails to understand and take into account the stereotyped institutions that are in place in America. Simply put, any black man or women will have a harder time in America that a white man. However laws and financial institutions haven’t changed with the times and haven’t been progressive enough to fully protect all the minorities that are suffering. In fact, many institutions have gotten even worse. Big businesses that used to support racist or sexist behavior are changing their policies to more feminist products or businesses because that is what’s selling right now. I think one thing that the left has to focus on, is understanding that race issues and gender issues divide the left, but they need to find a common ground to be as effective policy-wise as the right

    • I grew up in a conservative family and had also felt that if people weren’t succeeding it was because they were lazy. It wasn’t until I got into sociology that I saw that we do not have a level playing field, Whether it’s discrimination or substandard schools, or an inability to have enough food or medical care — which affect children’s ability to succeed in school. I could go on.

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.

  6. Courtney Nahmens

    As the amendments say, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Though this is taken far out of proportion with businesses officially having the right to ban others from their services. Hobby Lobby’s case was something that tried to save them money personally and seemed like a money move rather than anything else. Still, with President Obama’s expansion of birth control access, Hobby Lobby’s bill may be able to be paved over but the business itself is still fighting it with the guise of religion. (source: ) It’s still entirely wrong but it needs to be said that there are certain businesses who want to cut corners in any way they can at the expense of the people. As for the cake business in Indiana, Indiana itself has passed legislation that can permit Indiana businesses from turning away gays at the door. It is defined as a “religious freedom” act that permits businesses from exercising that right (source: ). The business itself saw the opportunity and they’re more than likely suffering greatly from it. As a result, the bill itself is disguised as religious freedom but had no provisions to protect the lgbt community as a whole. This can be seen as a round about way of going at the gay community. As it was discussed, this problem was brought up multiple times and no Democrats voted for it but multiple Republicans voted against it. Nobody for the bill was willing to edit it to protect the community. As a result, those businesses who estranged the lgbt community from their stores ended up hurting and it hurt the economy of Indiana as a whole. Actually, on top of Indiana’s law, there are still multiple states where an employee can be fired for being gay (source: ) as of right now, the lgbt community is being discriminated against and this bill could’ve even applied to people of color if someone had claimed their religion prevented them from doing so. Businesses make legislation and interpret it to suit their needs and the laws that are being put into effect need to become more specific to protect different minority groups if such legislation is to be passed in the first place. I believe in freedom of expression and religion but not when it involves oppression.

  7. Cody McCullough

    Indeed these are strange times that we live in. I only hope that in time we will learn to accept one another with our actions and our legislation.

  8. This is such a thorny topic for me. The part of me that bristles against federal compulsion of how I live and the part of me that desires to love my neighbor and “judge not” and the part of me that is compelled to “flee from sin” are in constant conflict. Add to it the fact that I myself am a walking violation of Deuteronomy 22:5 and that log in my own eye is really much too large for me to be concerned with any speck that may or may not be in my brother’s eye.

    What I see a lot of is people on both sides not only assuming they know what is going on in the minds of the others (“They’re only doing this because they hate… they want… they think… they fear…”) but also assuming that everyone whose opinion is different from the desired point of view all thinks the same way and has the same motivations.

    It’s just too complicated to be resolved with a simple “Stop thinking like this and everything will be perfect.”

    Yes, some people — many people — hide behind a claim of moral superiority and blame God for their hostility towards members of the LGBT community. They are one protest sign away from standing arm-in-arm with Fred Phelps’ so-called Westboro Baptist Church. They openly mock and mischaracterize gay people and are typically the first and loudest to scream opposition to any concessions. Sadly, some politicians fall in this category.

    Some are on the opposite end: The “straight but not narrow” crowd gladly embraces LGBT unconditionally, supports and encourages gay marriage, gay adoption, and laws compelling businesses to cater to gay causes. Many believe that any references in the Bible condemning homosexuality have been mistranslated.

    And then there are the rest of us, mired in a confused sea of dilemma. I have seen compelling evidence both supporting claims that scripture opposing homosexuality has been mistranslated, and equally compelling evidence that it has not. I have every motivation to love my neighbor for all his or her sins, just I expect them to love me despite mine. So I applaud efforts to eliminate entrenched homophobia, and I stand with my gay friends and my straight friends (and yes, even my homophobic friends) in every effort to be a light in the world.

    But then we get to legal mandates. Suddenly we go from “This is how you SHOULD treat people” to “This is how you WILL treat people or get thrown in prison”. And I’m not sure that’s right either.

    As I said above, I realize there are people who use their religion as an excuse to be openly hateful towards gays — and crossdressers like me. But I also believe that most Christians just want to do what’s right by the God they follow, if they could only figure out what exactly that means. Jesus dined with prostitutes and “tax collectors” (reviled not only for their jobs but the fact that they extorted additional taxes for personal gain). But — did he contribute to their activities? Did he procure customers for the prostitutes, help the tax collectors shake down peasants for extra loot? Did he tell the adulteress “Go forth, and use protection next time”?

    Somewhere between throwing the first stone and fully participating in evil is a middle ground where I love my neighbor as I love myself, without contributing to his downfall.

    Obviously, for those who either don’t believe in God or sin at all, or those who believe that the references to homosexuality are misintrepreted and it is not a sin at all, none of this matters. The answer is clear-cut: Bake that cake, put two grooms on it, and throw rice (or birdseed) at the wedding.

    For those whose understanding of scripture puts homosexuality on equal footing — no more and no less of a sin — than drunkenness, idolatry, adultery, gossip, greed, etc., compelling them by law to do something that they sincerely believe offends God really does intrude on their religious freedom.

    Consider this: Should a Muslim baker be required by law to bake a cake for an Easter celebration that depicts Jesus on the cross? Should a black baker be required to provide a cake to a Klan rally and decorate it with a Confederate flag and the words “WHITE POWER”? Should a Jewish baker be required to decorate a cake with “Allahu Akbar” written in Arabic?

    Unfortunately there’s no way to differentiate between people who refuse because they’re bigoted, hateful jerks and people who refuse because they have a sincere desire not to offend God.

    • These laws that are meant to discriminate against LGBTQ, Women and other minorities – At least in the US – come from Christians. And Jesus says that love is the greatest commandment, so love should trump other commandments that contradict it.

      If the government doesn’t protect minorities — making sure that everyone has equal rights and equal opportunities, then only the powerful have any power. And that isn’t good for society in part because really talented people who are discriminated against aren’t allowed to use their talents. But there is also the issue of general human values, that everyone should be treated with basic humanity and dignity.

      What libertarianism does is keep the powerful in place. But since the powerful have more money and power it’s easier for them to get their ideas out there. They create think tanks to do it – paying really smart people to message something that benefits the powerful at the expense of the more powerless parts of society – and then they get their ideas out via FOXNews and Rush Limbaugh, etc.

      There is also the question of “who’s harmed — or more harmed — when rights conflict. The Muslim banker won’t actually be harmed by baking a cake for a Christian. Instead, he or she will make more money. As I mentioned, I have lots of friends and relatives who are Mormon who have sold tobacco, alcohol, etc. they don’t feel like they should force their religion on everyone else.

      Scary stuff when we start using religion as an excuse to harm others! And downright weird when Jesus says we should do the opposite – the person that most of the people who want to discriminate claim to be following.

      So of course the Jewish or Christian baker should feel free to write “Praise God” in Arabic. What’s the big deal?

      But on this other issue the harm goes the other way:

      Should a black baker be required to provide a cake to a Klan rally and decorate it with a Confederate flag and the words “WHITE POWER”?

      relatively speaking, It’s not that big of a deal to buy a cake someplace else, or not have cake at all. But when you are forcing someone to demean themselves by writing those words, that is really harmful.

      If a Ku Klux Klan Group tries to force a black person to bake a cake with words that are demeaning to their ethnic group, then it is a huge affront to the black person’s worth and dignity. It really diminishes the black person.

      Similarly, if a homophobic group refuses to sell a cake to gays and lesbians because they think they are despicable, or sinners, that really diminishes the gay or lesbian person.

  9. The society, as a whole, is homophobic in most parts of the world. But, things are changing quickly and I can see people are learning the fact that being gay, lesbian is neither a disease nor a crime.

    We can only hope for a better tomorrow….

  10. It’s so interesting what some places consider okay still – such as the not selling wedding cake to gay people- and how in several years we are hopefully going to look back and go- how antiquated and wrong was that. It wasn’t so long ago that there were signs in certain places in the the US saying “no filipinos and dogs.” And I wouldn’t have been allowed to be in relationship with my significant other who is White.

    • Given how homophobic our society was not so long ago, is interesting to see how quickly things are changing. It’s an interesting thing – question – as to why so many people want to look down on others. I guess they have low self-esteem and looking down on others makes them feel better about themselves. Too bad they are so insecure.

  11. Hi dear Georgia! Great to read your post here…. I woner if you would post on the Indiana Law affair and you did, of course… It is a complex issue indeed, because it is relative, somehow according to different perspectives… But either way, what is clear to me is that it legitimizes discrimination…
    What caught my attention is that Mike Pence seems to have a total different approach on it as if somehow we were talking about different laws… Check out this little video with the Fox Friends… Friends think alike, I guess !!!
    All my best wishes. Aquileana 😀

    • Yeah, that all happened while I was on spring break, so I’m a little late. That’s why I decided to expand the topic to business rights vs human rights.

      And thanks for the link to the video!

  12. The U.S. is the only developed country without paid maternity leaves or family/child allowances. In this sense, businesses are better off than childbearing women. I often wonder what it would take for that to change; for Americans everywhere to expand our definition of self to include the “other”: for popular beliefs to begin to reflect a recognition of the consequences of staunch individualism and a desire to heal those consequences. My beliefs have certainly been shaped over time by social science classes that taught me about popular myths and the distribution of wealth that prevent social improvements. But I already had a corresponding desire to heal my world thanks to others who taught me things and showed me it’s okay to feel my feelings and keep my heart open.

    The reason I began this comment with the topic of government services is because the article points out that there are unmet needs for women who have “many mouths to feed” and “many children underfoot”. I think that having the freedom to use and access to contraceptives is a solution, but the problem within the social structure remains to be addressed. What if a couple wants to have many mouths to feed? More importantly, what if that couple wants to have the freedom to spend time with their children instead of paying for childcare? That is a freedom that is not readily available. If the freedom to use contraceptives is the only freedom available, then we each are pressured nonetheless to give our lives to the Machine, creating for ourselves a semblance of a good life, as it were, through submitting our skills and participation to the demands of industry. If our only solution is to forego childbearing, then we will remain pawns in a losing fight against ourselves where the superior rights of businesses are left fundamentally unchallenged. Suppose there is a victory: “Hooray! We gathered in numbers, we raised our voices, we helped pass legislation, and now women can receive contraceptives through employer insurance plans!” That would indeed be a necessary stitch and step in our society. But even if what we wanted was to have more quality time with our big and healthy family the odds would be against us, pressured as we are to feel powerless under the rule of transnational corporations and the cost of living, or, more deeply, the money system and the worldview that underlies it.

    I’m not saying that we are all damned to slave away at factories and offices, just that, we are in a time when the collective acceptance of and devotion to what is considered normal is too rigid. When even our families discourage us from being different, reminding us instead to seek security, as if it were even more important than living a meaningful life. Many feminists and activists of all walks of life have left a legacy of courage that I look up to every moment.

    I would like to suggest that we can optimistically aim for a plurality of freedoms and need not settle for less. Maybe we can have the freedom of reproductive choice along with the freedom to feed our children and quality family time. My hope for these things is in our already germinating metamorphoses of our worldview, and by extension, the transformation of the money system to include built-in redistribution mechanisms, sharing, ecologically regenerative tendencies and so forth. In this world, businesses would return to their proper role as entities designed for social good. They would not grow to the point where an external voice would be drowned up. Perhaps they wouldn’t even subscribe to notions of “external” and “other.” Perhaps none of us will.

    • Well I would certainly hope that we would have all of those freedoms. I mention the issues I do because there are specific laws and court cases where business rights have been placed before human rights. We are being run by the corporations, And that is likely because of the power of money in politics. Our Supreme Court calls money speech, but that means corporations have a megaphone and everyone else is on silencer.

  13. I’m not fond of obama and most people aren’t, but the thing that is funny is everybody is pointing fingers whether towards republicans towards democrats and vice versa. Conservatives vs liberals, but to me, it seems like everybody looks by or maybe that’s what the very elite want. Wanting people distracted and fighting over different sides, while the elite gain more rights and priveleges over the people and squeeze more from the middle class. I really don’t think it’s the government that rules this country, but corporations and extremely wealthy and them dictating or working with the government to get more privleges over the rest. Whether you like elizabeth warren, I saw her talk on conan o brien show of all things and there were some interesting points about student loans and the wealthy like I said. Heres the video, you should check it out.

    Just click and drag forward to jump ahead of the previous stuff and go to the 23:55 or 24 minute mark on clip and that’s when she comes up to talk. Pretty interesting..

    • Well, depending on when the poll is taken, Obama hovers around 50% approval and disapproval.

      But money talks and corporations have a lot of money to give to politicians and judges. So we end up with corporations running things. We are moving from a democracy to a plutocracy.

      And I love you Elizabeth Warren. My personal favorite.

      • “We are moving from a democracy to a plutocracy.”

        We are already there! Where we’re really heading is towards fascism, an alliance between government and business, with restricted individual liberties.

        As Ronald Reagan said, “Government is not the answer. Government is the problem.”

      • I agree that we are already there. But if you don’t have any government then your only leadership is corporations. Corporations would be easily able to discriminate without any government intervention. Instead, we need the government to work on behalf of citizens instead of putting business interests over human needs.

  14. I can certainly understand why Jesus dined with sinners. Given the “Hobby Lobby” alternative, hypocrites, the sinners sound like much better company.

  15. The Bill of Rights should only apply to individuals. The owners of a business are already protected under the Bill of Rights from government infringement on their religious freedoms.

    What recent Supreme Court rulings have done, in the Hobby Lobby and Citizens United cases, is extend the Bill of Rights to non persons…I totally disagree with this…Bad law, bad law, bad law.

    If those business owners have the right to discriminate on religious grounds, then should not those same businesses NOT be entitled to tax benefits? After all such tax benefits and privileges to religious organizations is unconstitutional as it has been construed as the government “establishing a religion.”

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