A reader sent me a mild ethical problem, and asked that I put it up to get reader input. This isn’t a life-or-death sort of situation, but the kind of low-level, day-to-day aggravation with which we’re all familiar.
Today I went to get my car inspected as my state requires it annually, and you will get a ticket for having an expired inspection sticker. The inspection place I went to had a Christian radio station in the waiting room. I politely asked the guy at the desk (who I later confirmed was the owner) to change the channel to one that was not religious. He said he would not.
I explained that not all of his customers are Christians – surely some are Jewish and some are not religious at all. He still refused and I told him that he was discriminating by making me listen to his religion being promoted. He replied that when he goes to stores owned by Chinese people he has to listen to what they play. I replied that I doubted they were promoting their own religion. I continued to calmly tell him that I don’t appreciate someone pushing their religions views on me and that his shop should be welcoming to people of all religions and no religion. He ignored this comment and continued with his paperwork for my inspection, at which point I told him I would take my business elsewhere, and I left.
I know he has a right to put whatever he wants on the radio, and that I have a right to give my business to whoever I want to give it to, but was I being prejudiced? My gut feel is that I did the right thing but I’m wondering how someone else would see it and would love to know what your readers think.
I think it was handled exactly right: make a polite and reasonable request of the person expecting your business, and if they won’t agree, take your business elsewhere. This isn’t unique to religious broadcasting, either — I’d feel the same way if I had to listen to Rush Limbaugh while waiting on some car maintenance. The only concern would be if there were only one local place that could handle your legally-mandated requirements, in which case there might be grounds for making a bigger stink.
Otherwise, though, publicize. I think a smart strategy in this kind of situation is not to go after the shop owner, but go after the source. Write a letter to the paper, highlighting some offensive stupidity from that radio station, and make it clear that you won’t frequent businesses that play that kind of inanity. Spread the word among your friends and get them to write in, too — get enough people to make mild (you don’t need to picket for this to work) public criticisms of station KJRK, and even business owners who love KJRK will make it a policy not to blare something that will scare away customers.