A bill filed for the 2020 legislative session seeks to exclude private business owners from state markets if their political ideologies don’t line up with that of the authors’.
House Bill 3967, by Reps. Mark McBride, R-Moore, and Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, restricts free speech by excluding business owners from full participation in Oklahoma’s economic markets and presents an undue burden of requiring all businesses to submit a written certification stating they are not engaged in the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement. The bill identifies businesses engaging in the boycott as “unduly risky” to deal with and makes a character judgment stating that their “commercial soundness” is impaired.
This argument is a tissue paper-thin veil of justification for discrimination.
Being able to spend your money where you choose, to petition your government when you think it’s doing something wrong, and to join with others to express your opinions — these are fundamental rights enshrined in the First Amendment. Whatever your stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this bill should scare you.
If business owners are singled out and punished by the state for exercising their right to freely spend their money on the goods and services needed to run their businesses today, then how can we be ensured we are safe from punishment from the state for exercising other rights in the future?
If today we cannot engage in boycott, tomorrow will we still be allowed to assemble? If today I cannot choose to withhold my hard-earned money from companies that don’t share my values, then tomorrow will you still have the right to spend your income with the businesses that hold your values? Will you be allowed to choose Hobby Lobby over Michael’s? Or Chick-fil-A over McDonald’s?
Where we spend our money is fundamental in our pursuit of happiness. How we choose to do business is a choice of preference and morality. When the government steps in to curtail this right, we all lose. Maybe today’s bill doesn’t personally affect you, but tomorrow’s will. It is the responsibility of us all to stand up to tyranny and to use our constitutional rights as they were intended.
Habrock is government affairs director for the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).