Tuesday, January 27, 2015 | 13 comments

Supporting Property Rights Means Opposing Anti-Discrimination Law

By Connor Boyack

New legislation proposed by Senator Steve Urquhart seeks to legally prohibit certain landlords and business owners from discriminating against people due to their “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” Additional legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Dabakis would prohibit discrimination in a place of public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Both of these bills—along with the underlying laws they seek to amend—violate property rights and should therefore be opposed.

In a press conference this morning, the LDS Church announced its support for the general idea behind these measures. Advocating “fairness for all,” proponents argue that common decency demands enacting laws that will protect religious liberty while protecting the “right” of LGBT persons to rent residential property or be employed at a certain business. Elder D. Todd Christofferson, kicking off the conference, called for “solutions that will be fair to everyone.”

In referencing the general idea behind the Church’s support, Sister Marriott of the Young Women’s General Presidency argued that “basic rights such as securing a job or a place to live should not depend on someone’s sexual orientation.” However, no person has the right to somebody else’s property; it is incorrect to say that person X has a right to employment in person Y’s business—for any reason. A right for one person creates a corresponding duty for another; if a gay man has the right to rent an apartment from a person who personally detests gay people, that implies that the landlord has a moral duty to do so. He does not, and therefore the right does not exist.

Of course, we neither encourage nor support a society, culture, or environment in which this form of discrimination occurs, whether for sexual, gender, racial, or religious reasons. But we affirm the right of people to use their property as they see fit, even if they are being unfair or unreasonable in so doing. Sister Marriott’s call to “affirm the rights of the many without taking away from the rights of the few” actually lends support to the idea that these measures should be opposed; legally forcing property owners to associate with persons they may otherwise not wish to associate with undermines the property rights of those owners at the expense of creating legal protections for a certain class of people.

Elder Oaks likewise referenced a “steady erosion of treasured freedoms” at the heart of his concern for supporting religious liberty along with housing and employment protections for LGBT persons. However, anti-discrimination laws themselves erode the treasured freedoms of association and private property. As James Madison once articulated, “a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them…, a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions and in the profession and practice dictated by them…, an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them…, [and] a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person.”

It is likewise important to note that these fundamental freedoms are at the foundation of religious liberty, which is the Church’s expressed concern. Only when a person is free to associate with whom he pleases, and manage or dispose property in ways he deems best, can religious liberty be adequate and active. In their absence a person would have the right to internally believe as they wish—no government can outlaw a person’s belief system, try as it might—but the outward expression of an inward faith, including baptism, congregating, service, religious ordinances, etc., would be unattainable without the foundational freedoms that anti-discrimination laws violate.

Elder Holland’s remarks focused on institutional and individual protections for persons who wish to act in accordance with their faith. But the issue is larger than religion—a person who wishes to rent apartments in his complex only to senior citizens, or Mormons, or single adults, or white males, should be free to do so. No person is entitled to another person’s property.

It should also be noted that anti-discrimination law is entirely reasonable to the extent it is constrained only to government actors; no person required to pay taxes should be denied services or protections on the basis of their race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc. But it is entirely another matter to force property owners to act similarly, even for the ideal (if, at times, nebulous) goal of “fairness.”

To emphasize: we agree that, as Church officials in today’s press conference counseled, there should be no bigotry, bullying or persecution. We, too, desire there to be fairness and kindness and peace; we oppose unfair and unreasonable discrimination. To that end, we welcome and praise the Church and other influential members of society in advocating for and teaching the principles of kindness and civility. The question is whether the “solutions” proposed are the right means to achieve those laudable ends. As they rely on force—compelling property owners to associate with certain persons they may wish not to—we must, to be consistent with our guiding principles, oppose the proposed legislation that would use the coercive arm of the state to compel this behavior.

Undermining fundamental property rights is just as concerning as undermining fundamental religious rights, free speech rights, or free association rights. Religious liberty does not exist in a vacuum, nor should it be viewed in that light. The use of government power to compel behavior is only appropriate when employed in the protection of rights—and not at their expense, as in this case.

Elder Holland, in closing, stated, “We must find ways to show respect for others whose beliefs, values, and behaviors differ from our own, while never being forced to deny or abandon our own beliefs, values, and behaviors in the process.” We completely agree. Importantly, he continued, “Every citizen’s rights are best guarded when each person and group guards for others those rights they wish guarded for themselves.” We cannot agree more—and therefore oppose the proposed legislation.

Tagged in: ,

About the Author

Connor Boyack is president of Libertas Institute. He is the author of several books on politics and religion, including the Tuttle Twins series for children.


11 comments
safety mats
safety mats

It should also be noted that anti-discrimination law is entirely reasonable to the extent it is constrained only to government actors;".  That should be the end of story.

rhsmith
rhsmith

In a free market in Utah the LGBT community would likely pay a little more for housing because it would be a niche market that serves them. It is a smaller market. Paying more for items/services that are more scarce is normal and natural. A law like this would create an unnatural state where our LGBT friends get a special privilege In pricing. It's like price fixing.

A fair society is one where housing options are available to everyone. We all have a right to be able obtain housing, but not at any arbitrary price independent of market forces.

Joseph Sorensen
Joseph Sorensen

@rhsmith I completely agree with you. Completely.

But again, as I responded to the original article, "it does not apply in the case under consideration"; we don't have a free market in Utah.  Please hear me out, I'm not just pleading pragmatism.

The prices you are describing are all ready fixed in Utah, for race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, source of income, and disability. SB 100 just adds gender identity and sexual orientation to the list, it puts LGBT on equal footing, not privileged.

Currently on the books, in the Utah code, I am required to provide housing to a person who worships the devil--devil worshippers get a special privilege in pricing.  So do people of other religions, of various races, and different professions.  Exotic dancers and bar-hops, and car salesman :), all get a special privilege in pricing.

SB 100, I, and I believe the Church, are just saying, let's be consistent.  We're saying, "Do unto others as you would have others do to you, and you've expressed what you'd like done to you by legislating that housing can't be denied to you, because you are a man, or a woman, or white, or black, or because you follow Joseph Smith, or the Pope, or because you choose to strip for a profession, or to serve alcohol, or sell cars; now just treat other people that way.  Don't treat them differently because of their gender identity, or their sexual orientation."

I completely agree that we'd be better off if none of that were on the books, if we had a free market in Utah.  I'd support legislation that completely removed the sections addressed by SB 100.  But barring that, and contrary to what I said yesterday, and what I have felt for the past two years, since Senator Urquhart first introduced the bill, I am sold on SB 100.

I reread the bill carefully yesterday, and I wrestled with the Church's statement--thank God for churches whose primary motive is not popularity, and who do express unexpected positions, and cause us to search our souls, and check our premises.  

There is a call for fairness and kindness, and at this point in history, as tragic and ironic as it is, we have initiated force on one another, we have taxed each other, and now we are deciding whom to benefit.  We're just talking about being consistent with our decision to use force; we're talking about accepting the consequences of prior decisions; we're talking about treating others the way we have demanded to be treated.

As long as there is a list on the books, of classifications that can't be discriminated against, I can't see a reason to keep people who contrarily identify their gender, or are oriented toward the same sex, off the list

Joseph Sorensen
Joseph Sorensen

"No person is entitled to another person's property."

This is true, but it does not apply in the case under consideration. We are not considering a person's right to another person's property.  We are considering our fellow-citizen's right to public property.

We live in a totalitarian democracy, in which everything is subject to the voice of the people.  This means that the people own everything.  The degree to which we allow one another to pretend that something belongs to him or her self, thereby promoting economical usage, is the height of wisdom.  But it cannot properly be set down as a right, only a privilege.

John Locke acknowledges property rights based on improvement. He considers protection an improvement, and therefore a claim of ownership.

That is, whoever protects property, owns it.  So, where government protects property, that property cannot properly be called private.

First we all take from each other in the form of taxes, then we decide how to reallocate the take amongst ourselves.  We are all guilty of the first offense.  We are all guilty of initiating force.  Once force has been initiated it is far beyond human capability to foresee, let alone to try to rebalance the lost equilibrium.

The message I hear from Church leadership acknowledges that we, the human family, and the United States particularly, have jumped into a great big sludge-pit, and we are all getting really dirty, and even bloody; and it will do us lots of good to play as nice as possible.

I don't support the Utah legislation, but if someone else sees something I don't, I open to the relationship that can be built trying to see what they see.

Joseph Sorensen
Joseph Sorensen

@rhsmith  @Joseph Sorensen Yeah, that's why I wrote the post.  I think I see the whole situation a little differently than do a lot of people, particularly in relation to what we are all claiming as property.  I don't agree with the way we seem to define public or private property.

I'm reading a stunning book by Hans-Herman Hoppe, involved with the Mises Institute and editor of the Journal of Libertarian Studies.  He's is/was at UNLV, a Rothbard protege.  It addresses this property topic, and it's destroying my universe--all my hopes that liberty can ever find a foothold in our current world.

rhsmith
rhsmith

@Joseph Sorensen @rhsmith

I don't think it is inconsistent to reject this bill and still support the church statement. "the Church said it would support legislation where it is being sought to provide protections in housing, employment and some other areas where LGBT people do not have protections, while ensuring that religious freedom was not compromised."

A bill that saught to remove those barriers you're talking about, even in part, would supportprinciples.ose principles identified by the church. 

TaylorHiltonWells
TaylorHiltonWells

Totally agree once again Connor.  I also thought that the Church's stance on protecting LGBT "rights" to employment or service is anti-freedom of religion.  Eh?

nonannystate
nonannystate

Denying rights to some so that others may benefit is just tyranny.  It doesn't matter which side of this you're standing on.  It was said best in the piece above "It should also be noted that anti-discrimination law is entirely reasonable to the extent it is constrained only to government actors;".  That should be the end of story.

IA Libertarian
IA Libertarian

I never enjoy being placed in a position where I can't seem to reconcile an official church position with logic, much less with the position itself. I feel deeply committed to sustaining the Lord's anointed, and I don't want to be guilty of steadying the Ark, but I can't help but disagree with the Church on this.

It's strange to hear one express concern for his institution's threatened liberty, while he simultaneously calls for interference with certain different—but equally fundamental—liberties of others.

I can appreciate what I see as an attempted peace offering, but I just think this is the wrong way to go about it. You don't protect religious liberty by undermining other liberties.

Magie
Magie

@IA Libertarian My heart goes out to you . As a Roman Catholic I can tell you it is not easy the first time you stand up to your Church . It get's easier . Balancing Gods teachings with those of mere mortals ,who are supposed to be helping us walk through this life and to Gods arms is one of constant testing of our Churches teachings , free will,and a struggle to stay humble .......and then you have to go to work ,pay your bills and  taxes .

Trackbacks

  1. […] Libertas Institute, the libertarian think-tank run by Connor Boyack, responded to the LDS church’s exceedingly rare press conference held earlier today, addressing non-discrimination and religious freedom. Libertas said that the think-tank agrees with the LDS Church’s statements and because they agree, they therefore oppose the anti-discrimination bill being proposed. […]

  2. […] intended to say has already been addressed by Connor Boyack (president of Libertas Institute), in Supporting Property Rights Means Opposing Anti-Discrimination Law. Please take the time to read […]

Featured