"Does the owner of private property devoted to use as a public establishment enjoy a property right to refuse to deal with any member of the public because of that member's race, religion, or national origin? As noted previously, the English common law answered this question in the negative. It reasoned that one who employed his private property for purposes of commercial gain by offering goods or services to the public must stick to his bargain
. It is to be remembered that the right of the private [379 U.S. 241, 285] property owner to serve or sell to whom he pleased was never claimed when laws were enacted prohibiting the private property owner from dealing with persons of a particular race. Nor were such laws ever struck down as an infringement upon this supposed right of the property owner.
"But there are stronger and more persuasive reasons for not allowing concepts of private property to defeat public accommodations legislation. The institution of private property exists for the purpose of enhancing the individual freedom and liberty of human beings.
This institution assures that the individual need not be at the mercy of others, including government, in order to earn a livelihood and prosper from his individual efforts. Private property provides the individual with something of value that will serve him well in obtaining what he desires or requires in his daily life.
"Is this time honored means to freedom and liberty now to be twisted so as to defeat individual freedom and liberty? Certainly denial of a right to discriminate or segregate by race or religion would not weaken the attributes of private property that make it an effective means of obtaining individual freedom. In fact, in order to assure that the institution of private property serves the end of individual freedom and liberty it has been restricted in many instances
. The most striking example of this is the abolition of slavery. Slaves were treated as items of private property, yet surely no man dedicated to the cause of individual freedom could contend that individual freedom and liberty suffered by emancipation of the slaves.
"There is not any question that ordinary zoning laws place far greater restrictions upon the rights of private property owners than would public accommodations [379 U.S. 241, 286] legislation. Zoning laws tell the owner of private property to what type of business his property may be devoted, what structures he may erect upon that property, and even whether he may devote his private property to any business purpose whatsoever. Such laws and regulations restricting private property are necessary so that human beings may develop their communities in a reasonable and peaceful manner. Surely the presence of such restrictions does not detract from the role of private property in securing individual liberty and freedom.
"Nor can it be reasonably argued that racial or religious discrimination is a vital factor in the ability of private property to constitute an effective vehicle for assuring personal freedom. The pledge of this Nation is to secure freedom for every individual; that pledge will be furthered by elimination of such practices." Id., pp. 22-23.