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Rand Paul in '02: I may not like it, but 'a free society' will allow 'hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin'

Here's another wrinkle in the controversy over U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul's arguments, made Wednesday to NPR and Rachel Maddow, over whether the Civil Rights Act was necessary to prevent discrimination.

In a May 30, 2002, letter to the Bowling Green Daily News, Paul's hometown newspaper, he criticized the paper for endorsing the Fair Housing Act, and explained that "a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination, even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin." (Hat tip: Page One Kentucky. I have purchased the letter from the newspaper's online archives, but will not post it here out of respect for the copyright.)

"The Daily News ignores," wrote Paul, "as does the Fair Housing Act, the distinction between private and public property. Should it be prohibited for public, taxpayer-financed institutions such as schools to reject someone based on an individual's beliefs or attributes? Most certainly. Should it be prohibited for private entities such as a church, bed and breakfast or retirement neighborhood that doesn't want noisy children? Absolutely not."

In language similar to the language he's used talking about the Civil Rights Act, Paul criticized racism while defending the right of businesses to discriminate.

"A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination," wrote Paul, "even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin. It is unenlightened and ill-informed to promote discrimination against individuals based on the color of their skin. It is likewise unwise to forget the distinction between public (taxpayer-financed) and private entities."

Jesse Benton, a spokesman for Paul, cautioned that Paul's statements about federal laws in no way mean he's interested in repealing laws that prevent discrimination.

"The federal government has the power under the Civil Rights Act to make sure citizens don't discriminate on race," said Benton. "He's not going to repeal it. The only people who are talking about changes to civil rights legislation are people on the left are people who want to use this as a political attack tool. Not any serious people talking about policy."

By David Weigel  |  May 20, 2010; 3:39 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Race  
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