Random Rantings

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What’s the difference?

Geno’s Steaks vs Christian Shops
A Double Standard

Geno’s Steaks in Philly has garnered recent attention for a sign on their property that states, “This is America… When Ordering, Speak English”.

Read the whole story here

Now, I could delve into the controversy, talking about how Geno’s is free to have such a sign, but that they might consider taking it down to avoid offending people… etc. etc. But, lots of people are debating those points. I’m more interested in the following:

According to the complaint, which was served on Geno's yesterday afternoon, the restaurant is in violation of two sections of the city's antidiscrimination laws: denying service to someone because of his or her national origin, and having printed material making certain groups of people feel their patronage is unwelcome.


In particular, I want to focus on the “having printed material making certain groups of people feel their patronage is unwelcome” part.

It should be readily apparent why the “speak English” sign could make some people feel “unwelcome”, but I don’t see why the Commission on Human Relations doesn’t crack down on the stores in Philadelphia with religious signage…

I’m not talking about stores selling religious goods – like Christian bookshops, or Kosher & Halal Butchers. I am talking about the plumbing supply shop that has a “Jesus Fish” on its marquee, or the clothing store that posts a daily bible verse in the window – presumably secular stores that are claiming a religious affiliation.

It has been documented that “non-white” ethnic groups (Blacks especially, but also Asians and Latinos, and I’m sure many other groups) feel particularly uncomfortable shopping in stores where the sales staff, mannequins, and advertising is made up entirely of white people. Customers of these ethnic groups don’t necessarily feel directly discriminated against, but they distinctly get the feeling that they are not wanted and definitely not valued as customers.

That’s the same way I feel about secular industries proclaiming a religious affiliation… I get the feeling that as a Jew, I’m being subtly informed that I’m not a “preferred customer”.

I don’t mind if the folks who run the store are persons of deep faith, or if they give all their profits to their church. I just want to be comfortable in my shopping experience.

I’ve been told that many of these business owners are trying to proclaim that they are “Christian Businesses” because that means something about how ethical they are – that they abide by biblical principles in their business practices – and therefore want to advertise this fact so that others will know they are trustworthy.
That may work within the Christian community – in which case – advertise through your Churches… The Jewish community has been doing that for years…
Your public proclamation of “Christian Business Ethics” does nothing to improve my opinion of your trustworthiness… I will still need to hear a recommendation from a friend or neighbor, or I will try you out, and you can earn your trust with me… I don't see how a proclamation of Christian Business Ethics works for anyone of any other faith other than Christianity... (I can say I have a Jewish business, but I think the only people who would beat a path to my door based on that criteria, would be folks I know from synagogue or the JCC...)
Therefore, it seems that if you are a secular business, proclaiming Christian Business Ethics is the same as saying you are looking to be a Christian business, and serve the Christian community exclusively.

And where is the Commission on Human Relations on this? Am I the only one who feels unwelcome by secular stores’ proclamations of faith?

Maybe the Commission just hasn't caught up... or, once again it seems that religious discrimination is the last bastion of allowable prejudice…

-Emily

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