Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mississippi RV Park: Open to Public?

An article posted in early April describes a case in which an RV park owner, Gene Baker in Mississippi, acting as the park's landlord, asked an interracial couple to leave his RV park only because they were an interracial couple. The landlord cited the reason of interracial marriage conflicting with his church's belief. This interracial couple is of Hispanic/Native American and African American descent. The husband, Stanley Hoskins, a sergeant in the National Guard, moved with his wife, Erica Dunahoo, and their two children at the end of February where they handed in a deposit of $275.

Dunahoo discussed initially meeting Baker described him as "real nice. He invited me to church and gave me a hug. I bragged on him to my family." The day after this visit, Dunahoo received a phone call from Baker and was told "You didn't tell me you were married to no black man." Upon asking why that mattered to him, Baker discussed how it is an issue within his church and his community and said "They don't allow that black and white shacking." Baker, however, told Dunahoo that he did not have a personal issue with interracial marriage but couldn't allow the couple's presence in the RV park because of his church's and community's beliefs.

After Baker returned the deposit the family left the RV park. They are now living in an RV park that charges $325 per month. Baker was asked how he would proceed if encountering this situation in the future, and Baker said "I'm closing it down."

The United States supreme court struck down state bans on interracial marriage in 1967. The main issue in this case is that "religious freedom" has never been a justified argument to discriminate against interracial marriages because of a fundamental personal racism issue. This was not acceptable or accepted before 1967 and is not now. Gene Baker had and has no legitimate reason the ask this family to leave his RV park. The couple is now facing a greater financial burden as they have to pay more to live at another RV park that requires a higher monthly rate. In class, we discussed how LBGT discrimination today is likened to racial discrimination in the past. It is a shame that racial discrimination is still occurring in 2016.

What do you think about this case? What are the more important details to pay attention to here in regards to justifying a discriminatory belief through the use of religion?


Houtan Bozorghadad said...

There is racial discrimination since this interracial Hispanic/Native American and African American couple cannot rent an RV by Gene Baker because of his religious beliefs. If the government did force the Gene Baker to rent an RV to this couple, it is going against the religious code that he bases his morals off of. This would be a substantial burden on his ability to freely exercise his religion. The government does not have the right to force businesses to serve to people/parties that they believe is morally wrong. Does Gene Baker relinquish his right to practice his religion and give up a part of his morality solely because he is running a business? Would this case be different if he were representing a religious organization or a religious non-profit?

Kaily G said...

I would have to agree with Houtan. The RV owners hold their religious beliefs so deeply as to loose revenue, which ultimately decreases their income in order to not serve the interracial couple. Upon reading this post, I thought of the Supreme Court case Bob Jones University v. United States (1983). Bob Jones University invoked "fundamentalist Christian beliefs” which included restrictions on interracial dating and marriage. The IRS denied tax-exemptions to the university with the court ruling that it has an “overriding governmental interest” to deny tax emption status because terminating racial discrimination is a governmental concern. The reason why I draw upon this case is that the Bob Jones, along with the RV company, invoked discrimination due to religious beliefs. Yet, RV company presents an important difference. The difference arises with that fact that the RV company is not asking for government compensation, thus I ultimately believe for the government to intervene would be excessive government entanglement.

In addition, the Supreme Court case Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC recognized that the government cannot dictate a religious institution’s decisions on employment. The RV company and the school parallel in that the government has already faced the reality that employment is not appropriate for the government to dictate when it comes to free exercise.

Lastly, I would like to draw on the Freedom of Speech Clause. Offensive speech no matter how hurtful is not deemed illegal. Thus, I believe people’s personal beliefs must be treated in the same manner. Religious beliefs, although sometimes hurtful and discriminatory, cannot be treated in an illegal manner with both the Free Exercise Clause and Freedom of Speech Clause imbedded in the constitution.

Natalie K. said...

Although the First Amendment grants us the right to our own religious beliefs, it does not grant us the right to discriminate against others who do not share those same beliefs. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, public facilities were segregated by race because people genuinely believed that God intended for people of different races to be separated. The idea that an interracial couple being refused to rent an RV from someone based on his religious beliefs is "less severe," or even incomparable is mistaken. Once again, people are using religion to discriminate, just in a different context and in a different time period. Religious freedom means being able to have your own religious beliefs, to be tolerant of other people's religious beliefs, and to peacefully coexist with one another.

Hannah L. said...

Along with Kaily, I will draw on the Supreme Court case Bob Jones University v. United States (1983). In that case, the private university did not receive tax exemptions due to their discriminatory policies. However, the school was not required to change their practices because it is a private institution. In that same way, the RV park is privately owned and run by one man. While he may have a minority opinion, the government would be excessively entangling with the religious views of the owner. To me, this case would be different if it were happening on public property. But as the case stands, although racial discrimination is morally impermissible to most, Baker has the right to exert his beliefs and choose who he allows to live in the RV park.

Lauren Caldas said...

I would have to disagree and say that the owner of the RV park should not be allowed to deny this family access to live there. The RV park is merely a place for these people to live. They are not a part of the church in which the owner is a member of and they have no interaction with him on a religious level. His religious beliefs should not be disregarded, but they should not be a means to discriminate on a matter that has nothing to do with the practice of his religion. If his church was also located on the same property this could be seen as a valid reason to prohibit the family to live there. Also, this puts a financial burden on the family because they had to find a different RV park that charges more per month. In my opinion, this is clear discrimination and enforcing the RV park owner to allow the interracial couple to live there is not a violation of free exercise.

Rosalie said...

I agree that the RV park owner should not be permitted to deny access to the RV park, although it is on private property. The burden on religious freedom is minimal, because the RV owner does not have to act against his religion, simply allow all people the same basic services he provides as a businessman which he would do for anyone else. To add on to previous comments, I believe there is a compelling state interest in preventing the RV owner to deny access to interracial couples. Ideals such as these that many people ascribe to religious belief perpetuate racism in the United States, which already has a long and painful past of oppression and discrimination. In this case, the state does have the right to regulate private businesses.

Unknown said...

There's an important part of this article missing that would easily reveal the issue as non-religious discrimination. In nearly every other report Mr. Baker was specific to say he evicted them due to all the complaints from the neighbors. A decision as blatant as this can't be protected under religious freedom since Mr. Baker's religion played no part in his decision to evict the family.