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Thursday, 24 August 2006

Coming soon to a Theater near you: Religious discrimination

Counter VERSAILLES: The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights (KCHR) Board of Commissioners issued a final order today in the case Ruth I. Garrett v. Erma Troyer d/b/a Rocky Top Salvage, KCHR No. 521-PA. The Commission ruled in favor of Ruth Irene Garrett, a former member of the Amish faith.
On October 15, 2003, Ms. Garrett attempted to purchase goods at an Amish-owned business in Hart County, Kentucky and was refused. The store's owner, Erma Troyer, informed Ms. Garrett that she would not accept her money because Garrett was shunned by the Amish church. Ms. Garrett brought a complaint against Troyer under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KRS 344.120) on grounds that she was discriminated against in a place of public accommodation because of her religion. Ms. Troyer claimed she was entitled to refuse to accept Ms. Garrett's money because she was exercising her religious freedom.
A hearing was held on October 6, 2006 in Glasgow. The hearing officer issued Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and a Recommended Order on March 14, 2006, ruling in favor of Ms. Garrett. The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights voted today to accept the hearing officer's recommendation and ordered Ms. Troyer to cease and desist from the unlawful practice of religious discrimination and to compensate Ms. Garrett in the sum of $100 for the injury of humiliation and embarrassment caused by Ms. Troyer's unlawful practices.


On May 19, 2006--shortly after the above case was adjudicated in Kentucky--one Mr. Grimshaw stood outside the entrance to the Linway Theater in Goshen, Indiana. It was Opening Day for "The DaVinci Code" and Mr. Grimshaw was there to inform theatergoers that the movie they were about to watch was a blasphemous fabrication. His efforts were successful enough to draw the attention of the theater owner, who told him to leave or he'd call the police. Mr. Grimshaw refused to leave, and the upshot of the matter was that he was arrested and jailed for criminal trespass. His trial is scheduled for December 20th in Goshen Municipal Court.

Note the similarities of the two incidents:
-A person of a different religious persuasion than the owner enters a place of business open to the public (in Mr. Grimshaw's case, he never got any further than the sidewalk of the strip mall in which the theater is located).
-The owner is offended by the would-be customer, for reasons associated with religion.
-The owner refuses service to the would-be customer.

But note the opposite results in the two cases.
Perhaps Mr. Grimshaw's worst mistake was that he didn't buy a ticket to the movie he was trying to boycott; that would have guaranteed him the civil right to exercise his right to free speech.

Perhaps Mrs. Troyer, instead of offering to let Ms. Garret take her groceries and leave without paying for them, should have informed the would-be customer that she was trespassing and she'd call the cops if she didn't leave right away. That way she could have had Ms. Garret hauled before a judge, instead of the other way around.

But note, she wasn't fined for refusing to let Ms. Garret shop for groceries--just for not letting her pay for them. So whether or not Mr. Grimshaw actually spent money at the theater seems to be beside the point; he was being denied the service of standing on the sidewalk outside--a service freely available to the public--and all for strictly religious reasons.

Religion puts values on things like the right not to be humiliated--and the right to defend the truth when it is under attack. When two religions come into conflict, only one can prevail. The Amish religion lost the last court case to extreme secularism. Which religion will prevail in Mr. Grimshaw's case?

Stay tuned to the White Man for the latest developments.

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