When is it OK to Refuse Service?

Not too long ago a restaurant located in Richmond, Virginia cancelled a booking. It was Metzger Bar and Butchery (pictured above).

What happened?

The Family Foundation, a non-profit religious group had made a booking for a group of their donors as a way to thank them. However, before the event could commence, the restaurant reached out and cancelled their booking.

Wisely anticipating that this cancellation might result in some publicity, they posted the following explanation on their instagram account …

Metzger Bar and Butchery has always prided itself on being an inclusive environment for people to dine in, In eight years of service we have very rarely refused service to anyone who wished to dine with us. Recently we refused service to a group that had booked an event with us after the owners of Metzger found out it was a group of donors to a political organization that seeks to deprive women and LGBTQ+ persons of their basic human rights in Virginia. We have always refused service to anyone for making our staff uncomfortable or unsafe and this was the driving force behind our decision. Many of our staff are women and/or members of the LGBTQ+ community. All of our staff are people with rights who deserve dignity and a safe work environment. We respect our staff’s established rights as humans and strive to create a work environment where they can do their jobs with dignity, comfort and safety.

So yes, personally I feel that was a very good call by them.

The Family Foundation threw a hissy fit about this …

It made the news …

Check out the news coverage and you will discover that the source for the various media stories was The Family Foundation. The reason they promoted what had happened is not just about them being ticked off. Instead they grabbed this with both hands and then ran hard with it as a means to try and raise more money.

The alpha source for the media content was the Family Foundation blog posting that they had then pushed out.

Titled “We’ve Been Canceled! Again.” and decorated with multiple donate buttons, their stance was this …

Welcome to the 21st century, where people who likely consider themselves “progressives” attempt to recreate an environment from the 1950s and early 60s, when people were denied food service due to their race. Thankfully, in 1960, 34 brave Virginia Union University students held a peaceful lunch counter sit-in at Thalhimers Department store in Richmond to demand service at a whites-only counter. They were convicted of trespassing but, after a tremendous legal battle, were vindicated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Welcome to the double standard of the left, where some believe Jack Phillips must be forced to create a wedding cake as part of the celebration of a same-sex ceremony but any business should be able to deny basic goods and services to those who hold biblical values around marriage.

At The Family Foundation, we believe individuals in private business should not have to violate their convictions, which for some Christians means not celebrating what God has declared sin (Roman 1:32). However, most, if not all, faiths not only allow for the provision of services, like food, to those with whom they disagree, but they also encourage it.

So yes, they really are indeed claiming … “we believe individuals in private business should not have to violate their convictions” … yet they apparently object when the restaurant does exactly this to them.

Let’s be Clear – Their examples are not the same

I really do not need to tell you this bit, and I also do not need to tell Family Foundation this next bit either because they really do know and understand it, they simply pretend they don’t, but hey let’s do it anyway.

The Right to Refuse Business.

A business, any business, does have the legal right under federal law to not provide their goods or services to a customer.

Is that actually open ended, can you refuse for any reason at all?

Nope, it is not that simple.

Title II of The Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly states that you can’t discriminate against “protected classes”. These are defined as …

Let’s work a few examples.

If a customer is causing a disturbance (for example drunk, abusive, or yelling), and you throw them out, then they do not get to claim that they were discriminated against for being a man, or white, or Christian. It was the behaviour and not their beliefs or identity that was the problem.

If a customer is a threat to the health and safety of other customers, for example by refusing to wear a mask during a pandemic, then once again you the customer do not get to claim discrimination against sincerely held beliefs. The mask refusal created a credible health threat, so the customer does not get to come in if the business decides they don’t want the customer without a mask on.

Imagine for example somebody turns up in a restaurant and starts insisting that they should not be seated near anybody who is Black, Hispanic, or Jewish. You toss them out. “But this is my sincerely held religious belief“, they might claim. Er nope, the belief itself is not the issue, it is the behaviour once again that is.

What if somebody who was a recognised KKK lead and was very publicly known to be hostile to anybody who was not white showed up, but acted politely, did not yell at anybody, nor make any demands.

Could you toss them out?

Sure you could, because having them in would have made other customers and staff very very uncomfortable.

There is no legal mandate to pander to bigotry.

Rinse and repeat that in this specific latest case.

As for Mr Phillips the baker, that is rather obviously not a religious discrimination issue, but is very blatant in-you-face bigotry that simply hides behind a religious mask where it is seeking a safe haven.

To Sum it up

They claim a Double standard, so is it?

Nope.

Intolerance of bigotry is not an abuse of religious freedom.

  • Mr Phillips is still free to believe whatever he wishes to believe. Nobody hindered that. What he does not get to do is to refuse service to customers simply for being gay and then claim “religious freedom”.
  • Meanwhile, the Virginia restaurant might appear to have discriminated on religious grounds, but they did not. They made it very clear that there service refusal was because the group made their staff feel uncomfortable and unsafe – service refusal on that basis is fine.

One Last observation – The general response

How did most people respond to what the restaurant did?

Many were very positive and supportive.

A local paper, The Charlotte Observer, reports in an article that has “Bravo” within the title…

After sharing another post about its decision on Facebook, patrons shared their support for the restaurant’s decision.

“Bravo to you all! We support your decision,” one user commented.

“I’m proud of your decision. Can’t wait for my next opportunity to dine with you,” another comment reads.

“Thank you!! This made me cry, because it is so important that we all stand as allies with all of our LBGTQ + and minority brothers and sisters,” a third person wrote.

There were also negative comments as well.

They key point is this – Tolerance of Intolerance is off their menu and so I can happily endorse Metzger Bar and Butchery in Richmond, Virginia, not because they asked me to, nor because I am being paid to do so, but simply because they stand with pride on the high moral ground, and so I happily salute them for doing so.

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