How a “Human Rights Commisson” Tried to Shut Down My Favorite Bar

Back in 2011, I wrote a post for Ricochet cheekily titled, “Meet Your Friendly Neighborhood Human Rights Commission.” In that post I noted that state and local “human rights” and “civil rights” commissions — local bureaucratic fiefdoms given ridiculous amounts of statutory authority to prosecute petty discrimination claims outside of the court system — had become increasingly aggressive in their efforts to stamp out free speech and religious liberty.

Anyway, that was before last fall when D.C.’s “Friendly Neighborhood Human Rights Commission” actually threatened to shut down my favorite neighborhood bar for serving a cocktail that made fun of Marion Barry. (Yes, that Marion Barry.) I also did a fair amount of research and found some pretty astonishing examples of overreach and corruption by human rights commissions around the country. Just to give you a better idea of what’s going on, right now a Christian printer in Lexington, Kentucky, has been dragooned before the local human rights commission for refusing to make T-shirts for a gay rights event. Yet the Lexington human rights Kommisar openly admits it would be perfectly acceptable for a gay business owner to refuse to print Biblical material he disagrees with.

Anyway, this all resulted in “The Sensitivity Apparat” — my latest feature for the Weekly Standard. If you aren’t familiar with the scourge of human rights commissions, I suggest you get familiar with them before they come after you or your business. 

  1. The Mugwump

    Things must have changed considerably since I left DC.  Civilization has reclaimed the 1200 block of H St. N.E.?  

  2. Howellis

    Are they anywhere near as bad as the Canadian commissions before which Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant have been hauled?

  3. Mark Hemingway
    C
    ~Paules: Things must have changed considerably since I left DC.  Civilization has reclaimed the 1200 block of H St. N.E.?   · 6 minutes ago

    Heh. A few years back, D.C. started offering some pretty serious incentives to redevelop H St. It’s now a pretty happening night spot, with some very nice restaurants and clubs. But you still don’t have to travel very far before it gets sketchy.

  4. Mark Hemingway
    C
    Howellis: Are they anywhere near as bad as the Canadian commissions before which Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant have been hauled? · 2 minutes ago

    They’re getting there. In fact, if you read the piece I talk about Canada’s human rights commissions and discuss the parallels.

  5. Crow
    ~Paules: Things must have changed considerably since I left DC.  Civilization has reclaimed the 1200 block of H St. N.E.?   · 42 minutes ago

    Gentrification. Things are looking up in the imperial city.

    But, anyway, in my time in DC, cocktails that mocked pols were par for the course. This one is pretty tame (there isn’t even an expletive in the name!); thankfully we have these busybodies to ruin a perfectly good pun night for everyone….

    Why must we ground rights in something other than whims, you ask? “Human Rights” commissions against “offensively” labelled cocktails.

  6. Misthiocracy

    I’m just happy to see a “Human Rights Commission” story that doesn’t take place in Canada…

  7. el75

    Great piece, Mark.  A recent Canadian HRT case that you might have missed is pitting two “protected classes” against each other – A lesbian would-be barbershop patron and the Muslim barbers who refused to cut a woman’s hair.  It’s going to be interesting to see what the outcome is. 

    http://www.canadianconstitutionfoundation.ca/article.php/352#.UQgHT1IoHQ8

  8. Instugator

    I see you are unfamiliar Elane Photography v. Willock.

    The short version:

    Elane Photography is run by a Christian couple.

    Willock desired her to photograph her Same-Sex marriage ceremony and Elane referred her to other photographers.

    Willock sued and was awarded $5k in damages.

    Elane Photography is appealing to the Supreme court of NM.

     

  9. Instugator
    Mark Hemingway

    Instugator: I see you are unfamiliar Elane Photography v. Willock.

      · 1 hour ago

    Actually, I do mention the New Mexico wedding photography case in the longer piece. But yes, that’s a classic example of human rights commissions run amok! · 1 hour ago

    What is shameful is that it hasn’t been overturned yet.

  10. Mark Hemingway
    C
    Instugator: I see you are unfamiliar Elane Photography v. Willock.

      · 1 hour ago

    Actually, I do mention the New Mexico wedding photography case in the longer piece. But yes, that’s a classic example of human rights commissions run amok!