Friday, April 24, 2009

On a matter of conscience

Okay, so I've expressed my opinion (wavery as it was) on the subject of conscience clauses before, specifically that I thought they were a pretty bad idea. It certainly promised a foot in the door for fundies who feel oppressed unless they're allowed to impose their beliefs on everyone else.

Well, now the Iowa fundies are taking it a step further. Having gained the right to not-dispense medicine, the Alliance Defense Fund is now fighting for the right to not-dispense marriage licenses.
However, a letter sent to county recorders by the Alliance Defense Fund says Miller is forgetting completely about “one of the most foundational rights and liberties we enjoy as Iowans” … “the right of conscience.”

That right, the letter says, is codified in Iowa Code 146.1.

“This right is based upon the simple truth that it is wrong to force anyone to violate his or her conscience,” said the letter, also from the Iowa Family Policy Council.

It cites the motto on the seal of the state, which reads, “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.”

“This noble motto … is emblematic of the moral sentiments of Iowans from the banks of the Missouri to the waters of the Mighty Mississippi. … As citizens of the State of Iowa and thus, the United States, we enjoy the protections of this right guaranteed in the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions. This right of conscience protects individuals against coercion by the state authority, and serves as the first line of defense against the cancer of tyranny.”

The letter suggests counties adopt policies that ensure no one will be required to “issue or process a marriage license, or to perform, assist, or participate in such procedures, against that individual’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

The suggested policy continues: “A person shall not discriminate against any individual in any way, including but not limited to employment, promotion, advancement, transfer, licensing, education, training, or the granting of employment privileges or conditions, because of the individual’s participation in or refusal to participate in the issuance of a marriage license.”
(emphasis mine)

Me, I'm for it. I like the idea that, if you're acting on your conscience, you can't be fired for not doing your job. I think the law should be expanded to cover all professions. Jehovah's Witness phlebotomists who won't draw blood. Anarchist IRS employees who won't process tax forms. Pacifist police officers who won't knock down a fleeing suspect. I personally think it's morally wrong to honor any client requests that would result in damage to their brand, so I reserve the right to pick and choose which projects will cross my desk. And don't think you can get away with firing me for it.

Or waaaait. This isn't one of those things where the law only applies to some people, is it?

Let's analyze. Our pharmacist, we're going to call him Stan, is asked to fill a prescription for Plan B. Stan won't fill it, because his religious belief is that Plan B kills baybeez. Our pharmacy owner, we'll call him Mike, wants to fire his ass, because Stan isn't doing the job he was hired to do.

Stan's right to not dispense medicine. Mike's right to decide who gets a paycheck from him. Via the conscience clause, the round goes to Stan.

New twist: Mike has beliefs, too. One of his beliefs is that a woman has a right to not end up with a baby just because the condom broke. So this transaction is important to him not only because it's a sale but because it supports his personal belief.

Stan's right to not dispense medicine. Mike's right to decide who gets a paycheck from him and to prevent unwanted pregnancy. We'll also throw in Mike's right to not pay for two people to do a job that one person could handle so he still has an employee on hand to pick up Stan's slack. Via the conscience clause, the round still goes to Stan.

What the fuck?!

Let's delve deeper into this festering tunnel of blechh. You're a racist asshole landlord who believes that black people will filthy up your nice apartment, so you won't rent to them. You're a fundamentalist asshole restauranteur who believes that Muslim people will call down God's wrath upon your restaurant, so you won't serve them. You're a sexist asshole college dean who believes that women are inherently stupid, so you won't hire them. Acting your conscience vs. breaking the law. My heart says them coloreds is dirty, the FHEO says I'm breaking the law... The cognitive dissonance, it burns!

You have religious beliefs. That's great. I'm happy for you. But beliefs, values, and twinges of conscience aren't solely based on religion, particularly not just Christian religion. People of other faiths have values. Agnostics and atheists have values. Playing the "value" game, valuing some values above other values... Ahem. Playing the "belief" game, where some beliefs are deemed more valuable or important than others, is a messy exercise, particularly if Belief A beats Belief B because Person A has a Jesus fish on his car.

I've used this example before, but if you have serious objections to some of the requirements of your chosen profession, choose another profession. If you're Muslim and can't touch pork, don't become a butcher (or find a halal butcher to work for). If your religion forbids touching women, don't go to work for a gynecologist. If you're a Buddhist, don't become a... hit man. Or an exterminator, for that matter. If you're lucky, you'll find a vegan-friendly grocery store that doesn't mind if you won't ring up a block of cheddar. But don't go bitching if Safeway won't let you get away with it.

I fully accept your right to act only on your conscience. As a matter of fact, I fully accept your right to do a whole lot of things (but by no means all things), even things that I don't like. But I also accept your right to accept the consequences of your actions. Jaywalk? Accept that you're probably going to get pasted by a car. Punch the bouncer? Accept that you're going to get pounded. Refuse to do your job? Accept that you're probably going to lose your job. And don't cry about it because you're supposed to be special. My mom says I'm special, too, but I'm sure as hell going to get shitcanned if I don't finish that stupid-ass brochure for our stupid-ass client. Because I have to do the job I was hired to do.

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