TX Man Sues Supermarket Because Black Clerk Touched His Groceries

A lot of people, gay and straight, think discrimination against LGBT people in public accommodations should be legal, because we can always go somewhere else.

But would those libertarians stand by their free-market values if the bigotry was over race and not sexual orientation?

DeWitt R. Thomas of Hawkins, TX, is suing the owner of a grocery store for violating his civil rights and religious freedoms after an African-American employee bagged his groceries.

Earlier this year, Thomas was at the cash register at Two Rivers Grocery & Market in Tyler, TX, buying his weekly supply of pork rinds and Pepsi Max. But when he saw the bagger, Aaron Menefee, was black, he exclaimed, “Wait a minute, don’t touch my groceries. I can’t have someone negroidal touch my food. It’s against my creed.”

Menefee told the Longview News-Journal he thought Thomas was trying to be funny: “The first time he said it, I thought he was joking. Then he just kept repeating it.” After he realized Thomas was being serious, Menefree asked another clerk to finish with Thomas.“I didn’t feel physically threatened,” Menefee said. “I just felt verbally assaulted.”

The cashier who waited on Thomas was confused by his statement and ordered him to take his item and leave. it wasn’t until later that store owner Keith Langston heard about the incident: “I decided when I heard about what happened that I was going to file a criminal trespass against him” said Langston.

Thomas returned days later, and again requested not to be served by Menefee. Langston locked the doors to the market and called the police, who issues Thomas a criminal-trespass warning. Among other things, Thomas’ lawsuit claims he was “unlawfully restrained”—but he’s more concerned that he’s being discriminated against because of his religion.

No, Thomas isn’t part of some obscure Christian cult that debases racial minorities—he claims to practice Vedism, an ancient precursor to Hindusm: “Vedism translates into knowledge. I am not this way because I am ignorant. Ignorance is the enemy.”

Well, you might be a little ignorant: We checked, and Vedics don’t have any proscriptions on “negroidals” touching food or anything else.

Thomas claims he didn’t break any laws and is being persecuted because of his creed and religion. His lawsuit maintains that the criminal-trespass order is a violation of his civil rights. “When I go through (a store) and buy groceries, those groceries become my property,” he told the News-Journal.

For his part, Langston says Two Rivers is a private business and that thought Thomas has a right to believe what he wants, he has a right to bar customers who use “racial slurs.”

Putting aside the fact that Thomas is clearly a racist nutjob, there’s no indication he caused a serious disruption in the supermarket. So, do store owners have the right to ban customers based on what they’ve said? What if Langston banned Thomas because he told his boyfriend he loved him?

The right to free speech is a messy business: Exercise yours in the comments section.