A Florida gun store owner made headlines a while ago for declaring his store to be a "Muslim Free"
zone and refusing to sell guns to Muslims unless they took some kind of oath; something that the other, non-Muslim, patrons didn't have to go through. In doing so the gun store owner appears to be clearly violating Title II of the Civil Rights act, specifically by denying Muslims "full and
equal enjoyment of goods, services" on the basis of religion.
|The gun store owner in all his confederate glory.|
Image from nydailynews.com
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a Muslim civil rights/advocacy group that does many things, including providing legal assistance to victims of discrimination. CAIR's Florida office filed suit against the gun store on the basis of violating the Civil Rights act.
On November 24th U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom dismissed the case.
As people are getting wind of the decision people are reading headlines and making assumptions, the key one being that a judge has ruled discrimination against Muslims is now legal. That's why I'm writing this piece.
I'm not a legal scholar, I have never been to law school and I have no legal expertise whatsoever. With that being said I read Judge Bloom's 12 page ruling in it's entirety and those click-bait scare headlines could not be more false. Yes, Judge Bloom dismissed the case and the Florida gun store owner "won" and won't face any repercussions from this suit. And that's the key thing, this lawsuit was dismissed.
There's an issue of standing in this case. In a nutshell, standing is what justifies you to bring the suit to court. If Mike gets into a car accident and destroys John's car in New York without having any insurance a guy named Chuck in Alaska can't sue Mike because Mike didn't do anything to him. CAIR filed this suit as an organization which means it falls under the rules of organizational standing. Which means an organization can sue if one of two things happens:
- The organization itself is harmed.
- The organization isn't harmed but is solely representing a member that was harmed.
Therein lies the reason for the dismissed claim. Because neither CAIR nor any of it's members (Muslims in general who would have tried to buy from the gun store) suffered actual harm. The definition Bloom cites as harm is that it must be "actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical." Because no Muslims actually tried to buy a gun and actually suffered discrimination Bloom says the harm in this case would be hypothetical and since that doesn't qualify, CAIR loses their standing to sue. Case dismissed.
It makes sense if you think about it. If this case had gone trial the lack of actual facts would make a proper ruling extremely difficult. Clearly it wouldn't actually be this simple but the trial would go something like:
"Your sign says you have a Muslim free gun store."
"So? That's just a joke, I've never denied any Muslims guns."
"But your policy and you yourself have said you will."
"So? I didn't actually do anything...yet."
If there's one thing I'm trying to convey it's that this isn't a radical anti-Muslims ruling. It's well within the confines of the law. It isn't a damning precedent for all potential anti-Muslim establishments. All this case needs to actually go to trial would be for someone to actually try to buy a gun from the store and suffer the harm mentioned above. That would cement the issue of standing and the merits of the case could actually be discussed, which by all accounts looks like a slam dunk against the gun store.
TLDR (Too long didn't read version): No one was actually discriminated against so they dismissed the case. If someone actually tried to buy a gun and was denied or made to do anything more than a non-Muslim then the case could actually be tried on it's merits.
I had the pleasure of interning at CAIR's National Headquarters in DC a few a years ago and would like to make clear that the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article and mine and do not necessarily represent those of CAIR Florida or CAIR National.
Judge Bloom's ruling can be read in it's entirety here: http://www.americanfreedomlawcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Order-Granting-Motion-to-Dismiss.pdf