The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century, banning whites-only lunch counters and similar discrimination in hiring, promotions, hotels and restaurants. Yet, in a recent editorial board interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul explained why he believes that this landmark law should not apply to private business owners:
INTERVIEWER: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
PAUL: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that.
PAUL: You had to ask me the “but.” I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners—I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant—but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I absolutely think there should be no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding, and that’s most of what I think the Civil Rights Act was about in my mind.
After adding that he is also a fan of Dr. Martin Luther King, Paul dug in deeper, explaining that he he believes that in a “free society,” private lunch counters must be allowed to refuse service to Dr. King because of his race:
INTERVIEWER: But under your philosophy, it would be okay for Dr. King not to be served at the counter at Woolworths?
PAUL: I would not go to that Woolworths, and I would stand up in my community and say that it is abhorrent, um, but, the hard part—and this is the hard part about believing in freedom—is, if you believe in the First Amendment, for example—you have too, for example, most good defenders of the First Amendment will believe in abhorrent groups standing up and saying awful things. . . . It’s the same way with other behaviors. In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people, who have abhorrent behavior.
For the record, here is an example of the “boorish people” that Paul thinks a free society must tolerate:
In an interview with NPR today, Paul was asked three times about his position on the Civil Rights Act, but each time he dodged giving a declarative answer. “A lot of things that were actually in the bill I’m actually in favor of,” said Paul. Hinting at what he doesn’t “favor,” Paul added that “a lot of things can be handled locally.”