Friday, August 03, 2018

The legality of cancelling Nazis

The visiting Canadian Nazis were supposed to be speaking in Auckland tonight, but it appears that their venue (or at least, a venue) has cancelled on them at the last minute, apparently after a very quick but persuasive public campaign. While everyone on Twitter is cheering about this, I'm not sure its so good. To point out the obvious, we have a Human Rights Act in this country, which prohibits discrimination in the provision of goods and services such as venue hire. One of the grounds it prohibits such discrimination is "political opinion". Pretty obviously, this means that its illegal for venues to refuse to serve the Labour Party, Unite, Greenpeace, or Tamaki Anti-Fascist Action. But it also means that its illegal for venues to refuse to serve Nazis, at least insofar as Naziism, white supremacy, or simply being a money-grubbing racist arsehat is deemed to be a political opinion.

Are these things "political opinions"? The term isn't defined in the Human Rights Act, and there's no easy caselaw I can find which defines it (at least, not with a quick google). From employment law, we know it applies to being a communist and to protesting against government policy, but there's nothing specific about Nazis. OTOH, these seem to be political views: they're about what policies governments should pursue, how the state should treat its citizens, and what laws it should pass (including, ironicly, laws like the Human Rights Act which protect people from discrimination). If you think that immigration policy is a political issue, that political parties should promote a non-racist society, and that governments should respect human rights, then I think you are hard-pressed to consistently deny that opposing those positions is not also a political position, and one which is therefore deserving of legal protection. Particularly if you also think, as many on the left do, that "everything is political".

Or, to put it another way: if you don't think you should be discriminated against for opposing racism, then you can't support discriminating against racists.

So if you're cheering this, you're an idiot, undermining the very law that protects us all. I don't like Nazis, but I think that that law and our ideal of a non-discriminatory society is more important than them. We should absolutely protest against these scum, and make it clear just how repellent we find their views. But we should not encourage unlawful discrimination while doing so - because that is a weapon which can so easily be turned back on us.