Indiana Tax Business Has a Right to Refuse Service

Alice Salles Comments

A tax filing service in Russiaville, Indiana, is the latest private business to get some media attention for refusing service to a same-sex couple.

According to a CBS affiliate, Bailey and Samantha Brazzel went to Carter Tax Service looking for help with their joint return. But while that hadn’t been the first time Bailey used the service, she had previously filed as an individual. As the former customer tried to file her current taxes with her new wife, John and Nancy Fivecoate, the owners of the firm, refused to help.

“I declined to prepare her taxes because of my religious beliefs,” Nancy told reporters in a statement. “I am a Christian, and I believe marriage is between one man and one woman.”

private property

Citing their freedom to exercise their religion, the couple explained that what they were doing was not illegal. But to the same-sex couple, the incident served as a red flag, as there aren’t any laws in the county or city that protect couples like the Brazzels from discrimination.

Now, the Fivecoates claim they are receiving angry calls and are being attacked, and say they are concerned this incident may put them in danger.

In the state of Indiana, gay individuals or couples are not protected from discrimination from businesses, unless cities or counties pass their own laws stating otherwise. In Russiaville, there aren’t any laws that the Brazzels could have used to have a case against Carter Tax Service for refusing to serve them. But then again, there shouldn’t be any rule that dictates what a property owner should or should not do with his own property. And a business is the sole property of its owner, whether we like it or not.

Of course, a couple who felt they were unfairly discriminated against by the firm are also free to make the incident public, and to encourage others to avoid the service because of their beliefs. But they do not have a right to impose their will on the Fivecoates by resorting to government force. And yet, the couple used this story to push for laws that could eventually hurt other local business owners who refuse to serve gay people.

“Marriage equality has been the law of the land since 2015, and yet businesses can deny services because of our marriage,” the Brazzels said in a statement. “That isn’t right.”

Property Rights Protect Everyone

As Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises explained in Human Action, private “ownership means that the proprietors determine the employment of the factors of production.” That includes the freedom to say “no.”

By the same token, the Fivecoates were not exercising their First Amendment rights by refusing to serve a same-sex couple — they were exercising their property rights.

The Brazzels exercised the same right when they shared their story with reporters, making their opinions against the Fivecoates’ property rights public. And customers who choose to no longer have their taxes filed at Carter Tax Service are also exercising their private property rights by choosing to no longer do business with a company with which they disagree.

As you see, property rights protect us all, even those who advocate for an end to these protections. Unfortunately, the debate surrounding this incident, once again, will be all about bigotry and “hate” when instead, it should really be about the virtues of what makes a market economy so efficient, prosperous, and truly generous to all: private property.


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