The Uncivil Civil Rights Act

Article excerpt

Conservative views are often unj ustly linked to racism by harkening back to the topic of civil rights and especially to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which conservatives fought against. Simply linking someone to disagreement with the hallowed act is expected to carry the day. It shouldn't.

There's no denying that some who opposed civil rights legislation were racially motivated. But the act should be judged on its merits or demerits. Some opponents of the act, for instance, insisted there is no such thing as a "civil" right. They added that attributing rights to a "group" is untenable. Also, government can't legitimately grant rights because what can be granted by a government can later be canceled by that same government, meaning that what is granted is a "privilege." Isn't this one of the reasons why America's Founders thundered that men were "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." If a Creator is the source of rights, only He can legitimately dissolve them. Hence, the United States is different--or at least it was different when it was founded.

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Consider the real-life consequences of government-granted "rights." Both the former Soviet Union and the current United Nations issued a long list of rights that each person is supposed to enjoy. However, each right was followed with an assertion that the "right" can be suspended by law. In the USSR, all rights were indeed suspended.

The provisions of the 1964 act--though generally thought of as wonderful--are abhorrent to those care about individual liberty and the freedom of association. Discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin became outlawed. Someone operating a business would no longer be able to serve only a particular group while denying service to others. Turning away customers from one's workplace could justifiably be termed foolish, immoral, or wrong, but how could it be made a federal crime for excercising freedom of association? Also, a businessman would no longer have the final say in the hiring, firing, or promoting of employees. Where in the U.S. Constitution are such powers granted to the federal government? The answer is: Nowhere.

At its core, the Civil Rights Act wasn't about rights. It was about a huge increase in power for the federal government. Critics said it was 10 percent about civil rights and 90 percent about increases in federal power. Lloyd Wright and John Satterfield, both past presidents of the American Bar Association, stated: "The civil rights aspect of this legislation is but a cloak; uncontrolled federal executive power is the body. …