Archived: Lawmaker: 'Government Shouldn't Prevent Racial Discrimination'

By Julissa Catalan

According to a Republican South Dakota State Senator and “free market economy” advocate, businesses should have the right to deny services to clientele based on their race.

In an interview with the Rapid City Journal, Phil Jensen stood by those beliefs, saying, “If someone was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and they were running a little bakery for instance, the majority of us would find it detestable that they refuse to serve Blacks, and guess what In a matter of weeks or so that business would shut down because no one is going to patronize them.”

Jensen believes the free market should decide whether or not racial discrimination is acceptable, not the government.

These views are in line with a bill Jensen pushed in South Dakota’s last legislative sessionSenate Bill 128which proposed legalized discrimination by encouraging employers to enforce the right to refuse services based on a customer’s sexual orientation without fear of a lawsuit. “It’s a bill that protects the constitutional right to free association, the right to free speech and private property rights,” Jensen said of SB128. “A bill that would have ensured the freedom of businesses to choose their clientele.”

The bill, very similar to legal discrimination measures that were considered in Arizona (where it passed before being vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer) and Kansas, didn’t even receive support from fellow Republicans, however, with Republican State Senator Mark Kirkeby calling it “a mean, nasty, hateful, vindictive bill.”

The bill failed in a 5-2 vote.

Jensen has had several other measures fail to generate any traction in the state senate, having also supported a bill that would have removed prohibition against carrying guns in the state Capitol.

Another failed bill that Jensen championed would have required welfare recipients to adhere to drug testing. Jensen said that he believes it’s the taxpayers right to know who their money is going to.

In 2011, Jensen, who is a pro-life advocate, sponsored a bill that sought out to amend the state’s definition of justifiable homicide in way that potentially would have legalized the killing of doctors who perform abortions. The proposal was shelved based on its wording.

A self-described evangelical Christian, Jensen has been referred to as “South Dakota’s most conservative lawmaker” by the mediabut he still refers to himself as just a “Reagan conservative.”

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