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Free Speech vs. Philadelphia

Joey Vento, owner of Genos steaks, will go and face the PC police in Philadelphia city government today.

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations will hold a public hearing Friday to address a controversial sign at the popular Geno’s Steaks that has gained national attention.

The hearing was scheduled after allegations were made accusing Geno’s Steaks of discrimination for posting a sign that reads: “This is America. When ordering speak English.”

Geno’s owner Joey Vento said it is “free speech.”

“Since we have a little problem in the country with the language, it is also telling people at Geno’s Steaks, all we speak is English,” Vento said.

I think it’s free speech too, and I’m pretty sure the guys that operate Pats and Genos treat everyone equally bad. It’s part of the experience.

“Individuals who operate in a place of public accommodation cannot post signage or express messages that might have the resulting affect of making any group, any ethnicity, and any national origin person feel unwelcome,” said Nick Taliaferro, Human Relations Commission.

Philadelphia wants ot be a speech-free zone, rather than a free-speech zone. I’m not surprised.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh weighs in on the legal front.

8 Responses to “Free Speech vs. Philadelphia”

  1. Michael says:

    It is just not free speech, but the right speech. Speak in whatever language you want at home, but in public speak english.

  2. kaveman says:

    How about the sign that reads “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”

    I see these everywhere without any qualification as to why someone would be refused service. This guy would be perfectly within his rights to refuse service to those who don’t order in english, wear a silly neck-tie or smell funny.

  3. BCross says:

    The “any group” portion of Nick’s statement has some interesting possibilities though. Does this mean that signs prohibiting weapons at a business cannot be allowed since it might make people with a Concealed Carry license feel unwelcome? Would it also mean that any signs indicating that a restroom is for women only wouldn’t be allowed since that might make men feel unwelcome?

  4. Sebastian says:

    Things get a little more complicated for public accommodations. You may actually refuse service to someone for smelling bad or having a silly neck tie. But if you start doing it for reasons of race, religion, or for the purposes of discriminating against a “protected class”, then you might be liable.

  5. Mike w. says:

    “Individuals who operate in a place of public accommodation cannot post signage or express messages that might have the resulting affect of making any group, any ethnicity, and any national origin person feel unwelcome,” said Nick Taliaferro, Human Relations Commission

    Of course they can. They can make anyone they want feel “unwelcome.” They’re just not allowed to actively discriminate against a particular protected class of individuals (based on race, gender, religion, ethnicity etc.) Besides, It’s a bit difficult for them to take your order if you can’t even speak english.

  6. Mark says:

    Nick Taliaferro just “express(ed) messages that might have the resulting affect of making any group, any ethnicity, and any national origin person feel unwelcome.”

    I’m an American (my group, ethnicity & national origin).

    Taliaferro makes me feel unwelcome.

    The Human Relations Commission (assuming that it is legal at all) is a public accomodation.

    Therefore … STFU Taliaferro’

  7. Ian Argent says:

    This should be fun. There are days I wonder if legislating an official language of American English might not be a bad idea…

    (Nominally the citizenship test requires fluency, no?)

    Note: this would ONLY be a requirement for interacting with the .gov; citizens can still use whatever language they wan tin their own dealings. But at the DMV or unemployment…

  8. On March 12, 2008 at 9am EST Live (That’s right our first morning show), Joey Vento owner of Geno’s Steaks will be our guest and we will be discussing how the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations is trying to make him remove the sign that he has up saying “This Is America, Please Speak English When Ordering”. Now the last time I looked around this was still America, what is America coming to when the government thinks they can control our freedom of speech? We will be asking this and many more questions, so don’t miss the show.

    http://www.joebednarsky.com

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