Monthly Archives: July 2010

Group Rights vs. Individual Rights and How Freedom of Religion Hangs in the Balance

Fox News recently published an article about a lady being removed from a Southwest Airlines flight.  Why was she removed?  Because another passenger needed two seats.  (article here)

I remember when Southwest removed an overweight passenger…because they were overweight and the airline didn’t have enough seats available to give this person two seats.  At that time, I began to warn my friends about the legal ramifications of this.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes morbid obesity as a disability and, therefore, prevents discrimination against persons who are morbidly obese (at least in the hiring of employees).  Since obese persons (like persons requiring two seats in an airplane) are in some manner covered by the ADA, it becomes a very sticky situation when a person is removed from an airline or required to purchase two seats.

The Options for the Airline

In either of these cases, the airline has, as I see it, two options:

1.) Require the obese person to purchase two tickets.  The problem is that it would cost a disabled person twice the amount of a non-obese person to fly anywhere on an airline.  The slippery slope here is that you cannot charge a disabled person twice the amount of a non-disabled person.  Even though an obese person is inhabiting two seats (which would justify the double payment), that would be discriminatory.

2.) Remove persons to make way for the obese person.  The problem here is that it discriminates against non-disabled persons.  Non-disabled persons would be, in effect, required to accept random discrimination against themselves because he or she is not obese.  Non-obese persons would have their travel plans turned upside-down for no other reason than being less-than-obese.

The Root Problem

The root problem with this is based in the idea of “Group rights” versus “Individual rights.”  When groups of persons have what can only be described as special rights, individuals no longer have any rights.

Think of it this way:  When parents want to take an infant or a toddler child on an airline, they have to do one of two things: 1) hold that child on his or her lap or 2) pay for an extra seat.  The principle at work here is that you pay for the space you take up.

As the Fox News article states, the woman removed from the flight was flying standby.  However, she had already been awarded the seat and she had already paid for the seat she would be flying in.  But, when it was determined the obese person required two seats, it no longer mattered that she had been awarded and paid for a seat on the plane.  It is clear, in this instance, that group rights had trumped individual rights.

Why This Matters

The perpetuation of group rights over and against individual rights is frighting.  Already homosexuality has been granted “protected” status.  So it is not far from reality that a Christian pastor preaching against homosexuality could be fined, sued, imprisoned, etc. because he is speaking against a protected group of persons.  In this case, the homosexual would, in effect, be granted special rights that trump the Christian pastor’s individual rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

The Constitution of the United States, specifically the Bill of Rights, establishes, primarily, the rights of individuals.  Individuals have the right to the free exercise of religion; individuals have the right to not incriminate themselves; individuals have the right to keep and bear arms; individuals have the right to trial by jury.  When groups are awarded rights that may deny individuals of their constitutional rights these group rights can only be considered “special rights.”  These special rights, by definition, deny the rights of the individual.

As a person who is an American, I have the right to say whatever I please.  As a person who is a pastor and an American citizen, I have the right to preach whatever I please…at least for now.  Mark these words:  The day is coming when the individual rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion will be done away with because certain “groups” do not like to hear what people have to say.  This has already happened in other countries and it will not be long before the shadows of this come into daylight.

I firmly believe in the so-called Market Place of Ideas where anyone can discus anything with anyone.  Because, as Voltaire said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  Also, we must realize that liberty requires the freedom of speech.  George Orwell makes this point very clearly when he says, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

I have no problem with Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons coming to my door and trying to convert me.  I have no problems with Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists proselytizing as long as my right to proselytize is not taken away from me.

Stand up for your individual rights and the individual rights of others.  Our freedom hangs in the balance.

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