Government Property

Yesterday, which sends out a useful list of Colorado news articles every day, linked to two stories that caught my eye. described the stories this way: CU students and faculty no fan of freedom – most favor ban on smoking, outside, and Mesa libraries take heat for atheist display.

Here’s some of the language from those articles, published by the Rocky Mountain News (originally by Boulder’s Daily Camera) and Grand Junction’s Daily Sentinel, respectively:

According to the results of an unscientific survey conducted across CU’s campuses and administrative offices, a narrow majority – 51.5 percent – of respondents said they think the school should ban all tobacco use on the campuses. Smoking indoors already is prohibited.

The survey was in response to CU Regent Michael Carrigan’s proposal to ban smoking altogether. Results were released Thursday.


State of disbelief
Atheists say display shows different concept; library patron upset at having to wait to present rebuttal

The Daily Sentinel
Saturday, December 01, 2007

“We imagine a world without religion,” declares a display posted by Western Colorado Atheists on Saturday in the back stairwell of the Mesa County Public Library. …

The atheists’ display is simple, composed of mostly letter-sized sheets of paper answering questions about atheism, quoting dead presidents about the virtues of questioning faith and outlining what the group views as the pitfalls of religion: hate, corruption, scandal and violence. …

The atheists’ display was approved by the library earlier this year and assigned the entire month of December for posting. …

Anderson, who posted a display in the same space last February criticizing gay people, same-sex families and others as hell-bound if they don’t make right with God, said the library is getting itself into trouble by not allowing her to post her poster-sized Christian display the same day the atheists posted theirs.

My position on these issues, given the existence of tax-funded colleges and libraries, is that smoking ought not be banned outside and that all comers should have the same opportunity to display their message at the library.

However, my deeper position is that neither colleges nor libraries should be funded with taxes — that is, funded with money forcibly taken by those who may not wish to fund those institutions or their particular projects.

Whether smoking is banned on a property, either inside or outside, should be entirely up to the property owners. But who are the property owners at a state-funded college? Everyone and no one. Banning smoking violates the rights of people who want to smoke, while allowing smoking violates the rights of those who find the smoke irritating. is wrong to claim that the issue is about “freedom.” Don’t the writers of believe they have the right to ban smoking in their own back yards? The problem is that freedom has already been violated. Specifically, people’s freedom to control their own income is violated when they are forced to fund the college. The violation of rights has already occurred. An outdoor smoking ban would not constitute an additional violation of rights. If the owners of a private school wish to ban smoking outside on their property, that is their right.

Should a tax-funded library open up display areas to Islamists who praise the bombing of the World Trade Center? Should Satanists also get a turn? If a tax-funded institution forcibly takes money from Islamists and Satanists, then those groups (arguably) should be granted equal footing with Christians and atheists. Absurd? If so, then the absurdity is created by the nature of tax funding, which inherently violates people’s rights. In a library that obtained all it’s money from voluntary contributions, this problem would not arise. People would give their money on the understanding that some person or board makes the decisions as the legitimate property holder. If the library offends people, then they are free to withdraw their funding. Such a library might decide to allow no religious displays or only religious displays within certain boundaries. For example, a library might allow Christian, atheist, and peace-promoting Muslim displays, but ban America-hating Islamist and Satanic displays. The point is that the property owner, whether an individual, a corporation, or a non-profit entity, has the right to control the property. When “the public” funds an enterprise through political force, that means that “the public” owns it, which means that rights can never be clearly decided.