An Arkansas woman has declared her gun range a “Muslim-free zone.” Jan Morgan, proprietor of The Gun Cave Indoor Firing Range, announced the change on the business’ Facebook page; as justification, she cited the “strange behavior” of two recent patrons Morgan assumed to be of Middle Eastern descent.According to The Blaze, she wrote, “They spoke very little english (sic), one did not have proof of U.S. citizenship, yet they wanted to rent and shoot guns. Their behavior was so strange, it was unnerving to my patrons. No one would enter the range to shoot while they were there. Some of my customers left. (can you blame them?)”Morgan has no proof these customers were even Muslims. But that didn't prevent her from declaring that Islam is “a theocracy, not a religion.” She concluded, “The 1st Amendment is very specific about protecting the rights of individuals from the government, as it concerns the practice of religions, not theocracies. It clearly differentiates between government and religion. Again protecting the individual’s religious beliefs and practices from (the state) government. In Islam religion and state are one.”
Morgan has since deleted that Facebook note, likely fearing legal action. But her Twitter account is still active, and there, she still insists her gun range is now “Muslim-free” – to much adulation from her supporters.“I agree with you. Islam is a totalitarian ideology disguised as a religion that fully intends to destroy us,” one tweet read. Another: “Here to support you! God bless and stay safe from DOJ, IRS, and you know who…”To Morgan, these tweets are evidence she’s in the right. The reality is quite different.
There are a number of problems with her declaration, and we’ll start with the most obvious: Islam is indeed a religion. A theocracy is a form of government. Theocracies can be Islamic, but not necessarily so; any belief system can be abused to justify political oppression. It’s nonsensical to treat Islam as some sort of unique political threat, as she does in her original note. Legal arguments that rely on this reasoning have repeatedly failed in the courts.As a business owner, Morgan is required to adhere to public accommodation laws. On this blog, we’ve expressed concern over the Religious Right’s ongoing battle to grant business owners the right to refuse service to LGBT people on the basis of religious belief. The same principle applies to this situation: If you open a business, you must serve the public. You don’t get to pick and choose based on your personal preferences. Refusing service to people on the basis of their religion is clear violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Despite her bluster, Morgan has no legal right to deny service to people based solely on their religious beliefs. It’s illegal. For a woman who repeatedly refers to herself as a “patriot,” I’d expect to see greater respect for the country’s laws. (Her understanding of the First Amendment is pretty dismal too.)
There’s no evidence anyone has threatened legal action over the ban. But Morgan has certainly left herself open for a challenge, and it’s one she’ll almost certainly lose in court. And she should.
It’s time for Morgan and all owners of for-profit businesses to remember that U.S. law no longer tolerates invidious discrimination. The Constitution was designed to foster a pluralistic democracy. That principle is incompatible with the sort of action she’s tried to take at her gun range.