May a private club exclude blacks? What if a state law said it could?

And would it make a difference if the exclusion was specifically written down as club policy, or just an “unwritten rule” that was invariably followed?

Assume the club is in Ohio. Legal citations welcomed. And no, this is not about a case now before my court.

Is this a debate or a question? If the latter I can’t answer, if the former then of course it ought to be allowed to.

I could be totally wrong, but it was my understanding private clubs could pretty much exclude anyone, as long as they were truly private clubs.

Augusta National (the golf club where the Masters is hosted) has never had a female member. It also doesn’t have an application process, it’s purely by invitation only. This was criticized by NOW a few years ago, but nothing ever came of it. While there are no female members, females can golf there if they are guests of a member.

In the South there’s the old tradition of the “cotillion” or debutante ball. They are frequently sponsored by some local society, and many of these societies have very restrictive membership rules, for example no Catholics, no Jews, no blacks, et cetera, and to my knowledge these sort of societies are still in existence and still sponsor cotillions.

I believe in the right to free association. Of course, I also believe you have to live with the results of that, and one of those results might be bad publicity.

Context matters here as well. The exclusive golf club that bars blacks is a far worse case than the ethnic social club that does, especially since those social clubs have their own counterparts in the black community. Many people will give a mental pass to the latter while condemning the former.

The Elks club excludes atheists. We have two book clubs in town that exclude men. Mensa excludes people who can’t pass an intelligence test. The ABA excludes people who can’t pass a bar exam. I’m a member of an organization that excludes people who haven’t published at least one children’s book. I think the NAACP excludes whites. If we’re going to be consistent, then yes, excluding blacks is okay.

Banning blacks at some country clubs is also questionable legally I think. I think in some cases it’s been challenged in court and of course every state has different laws.

I think the way a lot of organizations get away with being so selective is, how can you mandate that an organization that doesn’t have an applications process accept someone?

There’s a lot of “secret” (very tongue-in-cheek use of the term) societies in the South that sponsor some of the aforementioned Cotillions, it’d be very hard to force them to accept anyone because they have no real “acceptance” or “application” process. If a member invites you, you’re considered for membership, otherwise, you’re not even considered.

Well, I mean, women can’t join the Masons and such and that seems to be perfectly legal. I thought as long as you’re private you can make any rules you want to. (Technically, a Mason can’t be deformed, either, although in practice I understand that’s no longer the case.) Black men may now be non-Prince Hall Masons in the South, although generally they don’t care to - but that’s a decision made as far as I know by individual Grand Lodges, not by law.

And groups like Daughters of the American Revolution, The Society of Cincinnati, United Daughters of the Confederacy and et cetera only accept people of certain lineages.

Don’t think so. Here’s the Internet membership application form:

A public accommodation cannot discriminate, but a private club can. Sometimes the line between those two gets blurry, and if a country club is given access to public lands, it might fall under that category. Also, discrimination by race is held to a higher level of judicial scrutiny (in fact, the highest level) while gender discrimination is held to an intermediate level of scrutiny. So, there might be places where it’s OK to discriminate by gender, but not by race.

However, if a state wanted to make it illegal for private clubs to discriminate, I think they could do so. (Not sure, but I think they could.)

You might want to research a little before you post something like this. The NAACP has never banned whites. European Americans were integral in its founding. The board’s own december used to be a proud member of the NAACP.

There are Masonic bodies that accept women. Some have women only lodges, and others have women and men. So a woman can join the Masons, just not the Grand Lodge of England Masons.

The Congressional Black Caucus excludes whites.

Is that an official policy, or is it on a case by case basis? I know there was a recent incident, but what if, say, Bill Clinton got elected to the Senate… do you think they would exclude him?

Why would they exclude our first black president?

Well, that was exactly why I picked him. I bet they’d let him join.

Its pretty hard to discriminate based on race. States can’t issue liquor licenses to organizations that discriminate based on race. States cannot allow public funds or assets to subsidize any part of the discriminatory club’s acitivites.

According to the following article, if the reporter is to be trusted, it is what you might call unofficial policy. But apparently policy nonetheless.

Emphasis mine.

I once joined a private club that excluded blacks, and I didn’t even know it. It had a swimming pond/beach in the Missouri Ozarks. Here’s how it worked. Remember: this was ca. 1960.

We drove up to the gate. “Do you have a membership card?” We didn’t, but that didn’t seem to matter. We paid our entrance fee and received a new membership card.

“Why do we need the membership card”?

“So you can get in the next time.”

“But we got in this time without one.”

(wink, wink) “But you might not be able to get in next time.”

“Why not?”

“Because you need a membership card to get in.”

Boy, we were stupid. It took us a half-hour to figure out what the (wink, wink) meant.

The Rotary Club was forced to admit women. I would assume that ethnic minorities would be in the same boat, if your club was considered akin to the Rotary club.

The text there seems to imply that Rotary is not private enough. I am not an attorney, however.