08
May
08

Freedom of Association

According to Wikipedia, freedom of association is a human right and concept in constitutional law based on the premise that it is the right of adults to freely choose their associates for whatever purpose they see fit. This concept has been included in several national constitutions and other human rights instruments, including the United States Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights, and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Apparently, that is no longer the case if you retain least favored minority status. At least in the state of Illinois. But as more and more states pass nanny-ish laws that regulate behavior, and do so based upon faulty science and thinly veiled agendas, our rights as humans in the US, and elsewhere, will slowly erode.

Suppose you are a member of a hobby association. You form a group with similar interests and the passion that this group swells. The group decides to get together for regular meetings… and then a big convention. The convention grows to the point where it is truly international in scope: 60+ countries send participants to the annual soirée. In order to maintain privacy, intimacy, and especially, the ability to shield the group from folks who don’t want to be exposed to it or impacted by it, the group rents out space for the private event, asks for volunteers to staff the event, makes it a members’ only event, etc., etc. etc.. Now, if you are not a member of the group, have no desire to be with the group, and everyone there actually wants to be there, why on Earth would their be a problem? Religions aren’t pestered, as such. But woe be unto you if you are a smoker.

The Chicago Pipe Club is in a pickle. For one solid year, they have been working to be in compliance with the new Illinois state-wide smoking ban in public spaces. They rented out an entire exhibition center for the event and made it private. You had to want to be around smoke (pipe smoke!) to get in. They also rented a large (4000 square feet!) tent, stocked it with food and drink and air conditioning, so that folks could go and smoke together. The resort that leased the area complied with the law and reduced the number of smoking rooms to a tiny percentage. There was no smoking allowed, as per the law, in the public spaces. No smoking in the restaurant, the bars, the lobbies, the hallways, etc. All the folks that helped out with logistics of the fraternity were volunteers. Everyone wanted to be there. Everyone. But that wasn’t good enough for the DuPage County Health Department and the Illinois State Health Department.

Remember how I mentioned that the Illinois ban is a public smoking ban? Even a private club function falls under this purview, at least according to a few activist groups. Because those groups believed that there would be dangerous substances lingering in the convention spaces long after the club meeting was over, they mounted a campaign of agitation that was aimed at local and state government. And in the end a group of folks that would never have attended the meeting were able to get the Health Departments to enjoin smoking at the meeting exhibition area. The club had worked with officials at all levels to comply with the law, but the Health Departments threw their curve ball late on Friday afternoon. After folks had spent their money, flown around the world to be in DuPage county, to be with people they had chosen to be with, to do what they had chosen to do, with other folks who wanted to be there. The Health Departments left no time for a solution to be worked through.

Now, forget for a moment that the effects of second are still in dispute. The relationships between cause and effect are not statistically valid. And even if they are shown to have some correlation, there has been no causal link definitively exposed. But it makes no difference because smokers are simply a hated minority. If the nanny state was so concerned about public health and welfare, everything that was suspect would be condemned with equal vigor. Your cars and trucks would be banned, coal plants would be gone, no fertilizer for your yard, no perfume or cologne, no airplane travel… You get the idea? It’s because tobacco use, though through taxation providing a significant revenue source for government, brands the user as a hated minority worthy of special discrimination. It’s okay to attack a smoker because we like our cars and SUVs, our green lawns and our medium-rare fillet mignon’s (rubbed with olive oil and brown sugar)… we don’t like smokers. For example, look at health care costs.

A look at actuarial and usage tables would show that, statistically, single moms use more health care services than any other identifiable grouping of health-cape insurance users. Everyone is trying to contain health care costs, but it is patently illegal for an employer to discriminate against that single mom by citing increased costs to supply coverage. But it is perfectly legal to do that to a smoker. By specific legislation, employers can deny a job to a smoker, even one who smokes exclusively on their own time, and use increased costs of providing health care as the deciding factor. Sauce for the goose and all…

At some point, more groups will garner this least favored status. And one by one our freedoms will erode. Until their is a tipping point. Then the governed will realize that the governors are not governing… they are ruling.

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