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Mayor John Suthers speaks to the newly sworn-in Colorado Springs City Council members Tuesday, April 20, 2021, during a ceremony at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. The mayor was sporting a beard, like the city founder William Jackson Palmer, as part of a challenge for Colorado Springs residents to grow a beard or wear a bonnet for the city sesquicentennial this year. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers discriminates. No one can dispute this fact.

Suthers discriminates while leading the state's second-largest city. He does so as a former district attorney, US attorney, state corrections director, and Colorado attorney general.

This sounds like awful behavior. If only eight letters shorter, "discriminate" would be a four-letter word. Americans — known globally for diversity, tolerance, inclusion, and charity — consider "discrimination" ugly, unfair, un-American and wrong. It cannot be that simple.

We have good reason to push back against discrimination. We don't want banks turning down loans on the basis of an applicant's skin pigment or other genetic features. We don't want bullies tormenting fat kids and redheads on the playground. We don't want law enforcement making decisions based on a suspect's race.

To counter words and behaviors that offend us, we must discriminate against those who employ them.

Contemporary judges and juries spend much of their time deciding who gets to discriminate against whom, and under what circumstances. Discrimination is like fire. It is neither good nor bad. Sometimes we need fire to survive, other times it kills us.

We must be able to discriminate to maintain anything resembling a free society. As previously addressed in this space, we do not have the constitutionally protected freedom to associate without the freedom to disassociate. We have no free speech without the freedom to say nothing.

The government and its overlords, including Suthers, have far less lawful ability to discriminate compared to businesses and individuals in the private sector.

Suthers brazenly discriminated three years ago against VDARE, an organization the media call "far right." We don't know much about this group, aside from respecting the trepidations of Suthers. The Southern Poverty Law Center's hate list contains VDARE, but we often discriminate against this organization because it ignores facts and has a record of mistreating women and Blacks.

Suthers "discriminated" against VDARE after the group announced plans to hold its annual convention at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in 2018. He told the group and resort officials the city would not provide special public safety and security services for the gathering.

Explaining he could not obstruct anyone's freedom of speech and assembly, Suthers issued a statement to private-sector leaders indicating his position was based on VDARE's reputed philosophy: "I would encourage local businesses to be attentive to the types of events they accept and the groups that they invite to our great city," the statement said, in part.

In other words, Suthers would encourage local businesses to use discretion — which requires discernment and discrimination — before accepting contracts to provide services. Don't accept just anyone who comes along. When VDARE saw what Suthers wrote, the organization sued.

Fifty years ago, a mayor in Anytown USA might have sounded mainstream by telling businesses to close during LGBTQ parades. Popular ethics and morality constantly change, unlike constitutional protections.

We suspect, given the mayor's advice to businesses, he would tell a Colorado website developer — or a now-famous Colorado cake artist — "to be attentive to the types of events they accept..."

He is exactly right and the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday agreed. The same court last week rightly ruled authorities cannot force a paroled atheist to attend a Christian Bible study at the Fort Collins Rescue Mission.

"Just as any organization has the right to express its views, any individual, including an elected official, has the right to express disagreement with those views," wrote Judge Gregory A. Phillips.

If true, which is the case, an artist has the right to express disagreement with a proposed wedding. The artist may express this disagreement by simply refusing to generate the custom-made art — just as Suthers refused special services for VDARE.

If hoteliers and other service providers accept Suthers' advice, they will accept or reject an invitation to host, speak, write, paint, draw or design an electronic brochure for prospective clients with messages they don't like. Artistic service providers cannot have freedom of speech and association if the state tells them what they must produce, what it must say, and whom they must contract with. Even the city's police department has no legal obligation to provide special services to people with beliefs the mayor dislikes.

Suthers clearly knows this, as he told Colorado businesses — in writing — they should discriminate in deciding who they will and will not serve.

We have a moral obligation to be good to one another. But that is something to learn in a home, at a church, mosque, synagogue, temple, or from reading books and listening to sages.

Yes, we get to discriminate within reasonable limitations established by law. By all means, obey the advice of Suthers — a seasoned lawman second to few. In a country comprised mostly of loving individuals, private-sector discrimination stands to improve our world by choosing good over evil. We cannot discern right from wrong or good from bad without the "attentive" discrimination protected by law.

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