An increasing number of small-business owners are using their businesses to make political statements, even to the point of weaponizing their businesses to hurt or exclude those who disagree with them.
One of the ugliest examples was a medical testing company in Colorado last week that denied a COVID-19 test for Candace Owens, an African American conservative who had publicly expressed her vaccine hesitancy.
In an email informing Ms. Owens that her appointment had been canceled, Aspen Laboratories co-owner Suzanna Lee said the best-selling author had “pro-actively worked to make this pandemic worse. …”
Even if that ridiculous accusation were true, if Ms. Lee really cared about the safety of her community she would want the unvaccinated Ms. Owens to be tested.
Denying a person medical care because of her political beliefs is about as ugly as politics can ever get.
Not nearly as dramatic or dangerous, some restaurants have declined to serve patrons because of their politics. In June of 2018, a Lexington, Virginia, eatery asked Donald Trump’s White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to leave.
“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” the owner told the Washington Post at the time. “This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”
Declining hospitality to people who hold opposing views hardly seems moral.
That same month — in fact, the next day — Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, urged her supporters to make life hard on any member of the Trump administration.
“Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up,” she said. “And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
And, yes, some on the right are guilty as well.
Last month, the owner of a Florida restaurant posted a sign telling supporters of President Biden to “please take your business elsewhere.”
Angie Ugarte, owner of DeBary Diner in Volusia County, was angry about the 13 U.S. service members killed at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.
“It was the only thing I felt I could do,” she told Fox 35 Orlando. “I was just angry. I was just let down. I felt like one of those mothers, or wives, or sisters who were gonna get that knock on the door.”
Her anger over those deaths is justified. Her sign called the current administration “inept” and it’s hard to argue otherwise.
But does anybody want America to become a place where we have to research the politics of every restaurant owner to find out where we can eat?
Granted, I avoid Ben & Jerry’s because of its politics. But I wouldn’t if politics weren’t central to its brand identity.
Likewise, the food at Chick-fil-A seems to taste a little better because the company isn’t hostile to my faith.
But there are enough troubles in the world without making every purchasing decision a referendum on politics. Business owners do us all a favor when they remember that.
Contact Bart Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.