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Skate Rink is Officially Off the Hook

John on June 30, 2006 at 3:00 pm

A couple weeks ago owners of Skate Time 209 and of a local NY paper they advertise in were notified they might be investigate by the NY Division of Human Rights. Their crime was advertising a “Christian Skate” on Sunday afternoons in the local paper.

I’m happy to say that today the state backed off, though only after claiming victory. Here is the full letter the owners of Skate Time 209 received:

Each of you has informed the Division that you represent the owners of Skate Time 209. Thank you both for your prompt attention to our letter of June 15, 2006, in which the Division’s Legal Bureau requested a response regarding the April 19, 2006 advertisement in The Ulster County Press which announced a skate time scheduled between 1pm to 4pm on April 23rd as “CHRISTIAN SKATE”.

This advertisement was brought to our attention by a letter of complaint from a local Ulster County resident who was offended by what he perceived to be restrictive advertising reminiscent of the 1920′s and 1930′s and asked that remedial action be taken.

The definition of public accommodation in Human Rights law 292.9 specifically refers to skating rinks. As the Legal Bureau previously informed your client, 296.2 provides that it is an unlawful discriminatory practice for an owner or a public accommodation to deny the use of an accommodation of the basic of creed, directly or indirectly, including, inter alia, advertising that the patronage of any creed is not desired or solicited.

You have informed us that your client has removed the language, “CHRISTIAN SKATE,” which on its face violated the public accommodation provisions of the Human Rights Law and has replaced it with either “Spiritual Skate” or “Spiritual Music Skate”. Your letters were the first indication that the skate time advertised had anything to do with the type of music that was to be played, rather than the creed of the group whose patronage was being solicited.

You have explained that your clients did not intend nor do they have any current intention to exclude any non-Christian persons. The Division appreciates that your client intends to adhere to the Human Rights Law but wants to clarify that it is the content of the advertisement, rather than the intent of the advertiser, that is relevant in determining whether there is a violation of the law.

As a result of the information you provided, it appears that the current advertisement complies with the Human Rights Law. Therefore, the Division does not intend to initiate an investigation pursuant to Human Rights Law 295.6(b).

So, apparently it really is illegal to have a “Christian Skate” in NY, on the theory that skating rinks are a “public accomodation.” Here’s what I don’t understand…

According to NY Human Rights law 292.9 (cited above), not only skate rinks but “inns, taverns, road houses” are subject to the same rules of public accomodation. The relevant section 296.2 (also cited in the letter) says:

It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any person, being the owner, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent or employee of any place of public accommodation, resort or amusement, because of the race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, or disability or marital status of any person, directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from or deny to such person any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges thereof including the extension of credit, or, directly or indirectly, to publish, circulate, issue, display, post or mail any written or printed communication, notice or advertisement, to the effect that any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any such place shall be refused

My question is this. How many gay bars in Manhattan have been threatened with legal action for “implicity” advertising in a discriminatory way toward heterosexuals? I don’t know, but if I had to guess I’d say none. The Human Rights Division might want to check out G Lounge, which bills itself as the original manhattan gay bar. The Lounge’s “mission” page says “Serving to a diverse crowd of gay professionals, Chelsea boys, and metropolitan hipsters.” Somehow, I don’t feel welcome.

I’m really not interested in trashing gays or gay bars. Their owners should be able to host any kind of clientele they wish. My point is merely that the NY Division of Human Rights seems pretty selective in their outrage. Coming down on a newly opened skate rink for a three hours a week of Christian music seems pretty ridiculous on its face. Remember this story next time you pass one of those American Theocracy books on the rack. Reconstructionists are a long way from ruling the world when they can’t even have a “Christian Skate” without getting a stern warning letter.

Oh, yes, I’d just like to point out that there was indeed an anonymous complaintant who felt he was being discriminated against. No name given, but I’d bet my hat he was a “twitchy atheist.” I wonder though, was this individual who felt this was “restrictive advertising reminiscent of the 1920′s and 1930′s” actually around in the ’20s and 30s? If so I imagine roller skating isn’t really his pastime.

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