As valued customers, or potential customers, we want to make you aware of certain situations that will impact our business and you.
Sunday night, we received an email from our web server, Shopify, demanding that we remove specific merchandise immediately or our website would be disabled on August 3rd, 2020. The email went on to mention items that have been deemed "not allowed" under their "Acceptable Use Policy" and are considered "offensive or hate speech."
We've been in business a total of 13 years now, 11 years online and over this span of time, we've seen a slow escalation of discriminatory practices implemented by all social media including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, as well as search engines Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others that forbid and block promotion of a long list of merchandise, not to mention specific words. Over the last year, this has escalated further to not just warning but also causing financial hardship to many businesses and individuals for both selling and purchasing of certain goods by making threats of legal action, forcibly blocking and/or removal, and blatant censorship of certain verbiage. This is also now affecting many of our suppliers and is impacting small businesses like ours in particular. During the COVID-19 restrictions, efforts have been amped up to impede not just free speech but also to prevent the sell of goods and services protected under the First Amendment as freedom of expression.
After reviewing Shopify's Acceptable Use Policy, it was not only found to be vague but also potentially covers a host of other items someone (anyone) might deem offensive including but not limited to any and all flags, signs, any and all firearms, any and all images or references to ammunition, the Bible, the words "Jesus, God, Heaven, Native American, Indian, and United States of America," the word "Confederate," the words "southern, Yankee, or northerner," the word "Apache," the word "redneck," the words "First Amendment," the words "Second Amendment," any and all crosses or symbols of religion, the word "Christian," the word "faith," any product that references wars or depicts symbols of freedom, brand names including Winchester and Smith & Wesson, any or all animal based products including leather, skins, hides, fur, any product that might include images or wording concerning the slaughter of animals, references or images of hunting gear, the word "hunter," skulls, handcuffs, depictions of the American or Bald Eagle, reference or image use of any and all US coins or paper currency, any and all camouflage items, use of the numbers "911," the words "buffalo" or "bison," antlers or antler products (fake or real), any and all words used to describe any perceived violence including "shoot, shot, fishing, fisherman, bow & arrow, hunter or hunting," the term "nut house," any words that describe a particular culture or nationality, the words "black or white," the words "stars and stripes," the words "stars and bars," names of particular states in reference to patriotism as in "Texas pride," the words "southern pride," reference or images of rainbows, promotion of American-made products (non-inclusive to China or other foreign countries), brand names such as Budweiser, Miller Lite, Coors, Jack Daniels, or any reference to any and all wine, whiskey, beer, champagne, and moonshine, etc., reference or names of all tobacco products, use of the words "knife or knives," any products that include Patriotic symbols or designs of the American flag, use of the word "snowflake" to describe any product or service, the words "cowgirl or cowboy" as these are gender specific, use of the words "his or hers" as gender specific, use of the words "mother or father" as these are gender exclusive, use of the word "pray," any and all symbols of Christmas or other religious holidays including Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Easter, reference to or use of images or words that imply law enforcement such as the word "sheriff, cop, police, deputy, chief, CIA, FBI, DOJ," playing cards, dice, or other games deemed related to gambling legal or illegal, products or images that reference any branch of the US active or retired military, products that depict wolves, eagle feathers, or other protected species, derogatory references to the US government, words or phrases deemed "politically incorrect," images or words that may be deemed sexist, misogynistic, or reference perceived sexual orientation like man, woman, girl, boy, images, words or phrases that some individuals may perceive as "threatening," the word "Dixie," statues or figurines that depict any US history, products or words that are "non-inclusive" to all gender pronouns, any references to concealed carry, and just about anything else under the sun that any person(s) may deem "offensive."
While we are selective in our products and do not intentionally offend any individual, group, religion, or sex, we feel it is our First Amendment right to represent, display, or sell products that express our First Amendment rights under the Constitution inclusive of the entire Bill of Rights. These rights are protected under the Constitution and supersede any and all state laws, individuals, businesses, and/or other entities and are our right not to just display and sell these products but also your rights to see, purchase, and display or your own personal use. As you can see, the potentially "offensive" items listed above would include the majority of our website should someone (anyone) deem any item offensive. In 11 years of online business, we have had only one official complaint from a non-customer with regards to a specific product that was described to be "offensive" or "hateful." That person demanded that we remove the product. She was addressed in response with respect as to her constitutional rights to object just as it is our constitutional right to sell. She was instructed not to view or otherwise shop with us if our items offend her. She never responded again.
While we object to complying with this unconstitutional request to remove certain specific items, we also do not want to have our business shut down while we explore our legal options against Shopify. For now, we have moved items explicitly deemed "against their policies" to our Clearance section. These items are in-stock and available in limited quantities due to time constraints.
We hope you will support us in this effort to stop the suppression of free speech and to notify you and others of this bias against our business and our freedom of expression. Please feel free to forward our message to anyone of interest.