Denying service to our customers is wrong, so that’s why we’re doing it!


As a business owner, I rarely take a political stand. I’ve only stood up on issues that directly impact our clients such as coming out against broadband caps and in support of net neutrality and municipal broadband. Our job is to repair computers in Lawrence, Kansas as well as Topeka and Kansas City. It’s not our job to judge or comment on what our clients do with those computers, tablets and smart phones. We serve customers of all political and religious affiliations. The religion and politics are of our clients are irrelevant in providing service and we don’t inquire about it. It’s none of our business.

Except it is when the Kansas Legislature gets involved!

In case you don’t know, HB 2543 the “Religious Freedom” to discriminate bill allows, without punishment or fear or reprisal, denial of service to customers by private businesses or public employees because of “sincerely held religious beliefs”. My personal religious beliefs find denying help to people repugnant. I don’t discuss religion and politics with clients because it’s my job, as I said, to fix their computer. However, in this case I’ll share a bit as a Jewish person that much of how I structure my business is in a book called Pirkei Avot which is commonly referred to as Ethics of the Ancestors (Fathers). It talks about how to live life in a ethical and righteous way. Sayings from this book that come to mind today are:

“It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.”

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when”

Therefore I’m taking a stand and simply can’t allow this law to pass without speaking my mind. I may not be able to change it single handedly but I need to do something. What I am doing is denying service to all customers on Friday February 14.

By denying service to everyone equally for one day, Valentines Day, I want to communicate that we love all clients regardless of their political and religious beliefs. The business of business is serving customers. It’s bad for the Kansas economy and Kansans to refuse goods and services to customers who are willing and able to pay for it, for no other reason than you disagree with whom they married. I don’t like the precedent this legislation sets as it gives permission to inquire into people’s personal lives in the course of doing business. Food, clothing, shelter, medical care, public safety and other services shouldn’t be denied to people because they aren’t the same as you. Existing protections on the books regarding how businesses should treat customers should be allowed to stand and special exemptions for discrimination should be denied. It’s absolutely the opposite of the way we serve customers and I don’t want our clients of vendors to think this is the way we do business in the heartland.

We’ll be putting in extra hours this weekend to make up for the lost time but for one day, 24 hours, I am not serving anyone, and I appreciate your understanding. I just can’t sit by and do nothing. If you feel as I do, that businesses and government employees shouldn’t be allowed to deny service solely based on religious beliefs, contact your state senator and let your opinion be known. If you disagree with me, no problem, you have that right to choose a business that is aligned with your political and religious beliefs but you’ll need to find a business who won’t deny you service based on those same grounds. Kinda confusing don’t you think?

I just find it easier to treat everyone equally because it’s just good business and good for Kansas.

Some FAQ:

1) What if someone has an emergency?

I’ll be returning calls Friday evening and can provide service on Saturday and Sunday. A protest of “going dark” has been done in the past like this. I consider this similar to the Wikipedia blackout a few years ago

2) Why penalize existing clients who might need your services?

If I didn’t do this, I would be at the statehouse letting my legislators know this is bad for business and bad for Kansas and that would penalize them as well. I gave the rest of our team the day off for Valentines Day to spend with their families so I’m the only person available.

3) Why are you getting political as a business?

As I said above, I get political when it impacts our clients or our business model. We are in the service business and allowing our state to carve out an exemption and legalize denying of service based on religious beliefs is wholly within our purview.

This is a way of letting clients know my stand and encourage them to let their legislators know this bill is bad for business and bad for kansas.

Frankly put, if you don’t think businesses should make political stands and deny service, well then sounds like you are against HB2453 which is kinda my point!!

4) Aren’t you being hypocritical by denying people service?

No because I’m denying everyone service equally. If I said “I’m going to deny service to anyone who supports this bill”, I’d be violating the very principle I’m protesting.. After today we will service HB2453 supporters and detractors and all clients equally.

5) Aren’t you risking alienating customers and losing revenue?

Yup-but sometimes you can’t be silent when you see something so egregious it shocks the conscious and brings unwelcome publicity to the state. If existing or potential customers base the decision of whom to hire for computer support based on religion, despite our excellent reviews and reputation, then it probably wasn’t a good fit. I suggest they choose us to do computer repair on Macs or PCs because of our skills, not our opinions. Similarly, we won’t pick our clients based on such views. (Although to be fair, we may make fun of people still using a Blackberry Playbook)

6) Why shouldn’t you be allowed to deny service to people you oppose? Would you fix Fred Phelps’ computer? Would you fix the computer of the opposite political party as yours?

While nobody from the Westboro Baptist church has called us for service, we’d provide the same quality service we provide to everyone. We don’t judge what you do with your computer. As far as political parties, I’ve fixed the computers of Democratic House members and a Republican Senate members on the same day. I couldn’t tell you their political views because it was none of my business. I don’t feel I have the right to deny someone service because I disagree with them and believe businesses and government employees shouldn’t deny service based on religious beliefs. What they do with the repaired computer is their own private business. It’s not my place to inquire what people do with their computers.

7) Why are you encouraging other business owners to deny service for a day?

To get the word out. The more people who are denied service before this law is passed, then potentially we can prevent others from being denied service. When I was coming up with this idea, I saw a magnet on our fridge from the National Holocaust Museum as shown in the picture above:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

We all need to speak up now so that way existing laws against discrimination aren’t given an exemption

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