7/14/2009

Religious Disability

The ACLU announced it had helped with a compromise in a Washington state case regarding "conscience laws" for pharmacists.

One of the big buzzes in the Christian community (because let's be honest it's Christians these are meant to appease) has been the "conscience law" that allows them refuse service if it conflicts with their "religious beliefs."

The ACLU compromise would allow them to continue to pull the "it's against my religion" dodge to refuse to fill prescriptions or otherwise provide health care services to people by saying that they "pharmacist" has no obligation to provide a service that goes against their beliefs but that the "pharmacy" does have an obligation to provide the medication or service.

Hmmm... so, the ACLU is shifting the responsibility from the pharmacist to the business owner or company. The deal would allow pharmacists who want to refuse service to have another pharmacist stand in for them. That way everyone is happy right?

I still can't understand why people go into professions that they know will bring them regularly into conflict with their beliefs. These "conscience laws" are turning religion into a disability whereby "accommodations" must be made by business owners for whatever belief someone has this week. After all, religion is purely a personal choice and there are no hard and fast rules about what is allowed to be a religious belief and what is not.

So, on Facebook I posted a short comment on the ACLU note about this which read: "It's a nice compromise, but I still feel that people who cannot perform their duties because of their 'religion' should find more appropriate employment that does not adversely impact others."

Most of those commenting after me agreed except for one woman who wrote:
"I don't know about that, Buck. Not be able to have a job you love because your faith makes one relatively small part of it problematic seems excessive. Don't get me wrong, I don't quite understand going into this profession if you hold those views so strongly that it affects your job performance - it's like being an observant Hindu cattle trader, to me - but if Orthodox Jews can have their need to be home for Shabbos accommodated (sic) by their place of work (which I support), I'd be a hypocrite to have a problem with accommodating (sic) other faiths, so long as it does not impact the business or the customer."
But the problem with that scenario is that it does impact the business and the customer - or more appropriately the patient. The legal compromise requires that prescriptions be filled in a "timely" manner but does not set out what "timely" means. It also requires that another pharmacist be on duty to provide the service that the "religious" pharmacist will not provide.

So, let's think about that. Say that I buy a pharmacy and I am hiring my pharmacists. Now I must ask them about their religious views because I need to know whether they have "objections" to providing certain services. But, the EEOA says that I can't ask them about their religious beliefs! Oops. Now I have to wait until something comes up and somebody refuses service to a customer.

If I'm a small business and employ only one pharmacist I'm in trouble! I have to provide that prescription in a "timely" manner so I'm going to need to hire another pharmacist tout suite! (yes, that is the correct spelling!) But, how do I know they will fill the prescription and where does one find a pharmacist just hanging out waiting on a job? It's not exactly like pulling up to Home Depot and having some guys jump in the back of the truck.

To be safe, even if I only have the budget to employ one pharmacist I'd need to hire two just in case one decides to go religious on me. That doubles my payroll and causes a big "impact" to my business. More to the point, it causes delays for the customer or patient because anytime the religious pharmacist refuses service I have to call in my backup and have them come in and fill this one prescription. If they're out of town or aren't answering the phone, the customer must wait on their medication.

I know it's very pleasant to think that this is exactly like observant Jews and the Sabbath, but really, it's not. There are not hard and fast rules about medications in scripture. I'm sure you can search the Bible from cover to cover and never find mention of a modern medication. The prohibitions against providing services to people (primarily women) come from personal beliefs rather than religious beliefs. They are simply given the cloak of religion to make them seem more important and to insist that they can never be challenged.

But, honestly, even when it comes to the Sabbath I am of the opinion that if it is that important to you then you should probably seek work in a company or field that shares your religious beliefs. After all, religion should not become a crutch used to force employers, customers, and employees to bend to your personal will.

After all, it would be like me deciding to become a priest then refusing to serve Mass because I don't believe in transubstantiation but demanding I not be removed as a priest because my own religious beliefs conflict with my duties. After all, wouldn't it be just as reasonable to insist they just get another priest to say Mass while letting me continue to draw a paycheck from the church?

Perhaps it is time we were allowed to call "Bullshit" when it comes to religion. After all, why do religious beliefs always get to trump the rights of those who don't share them?

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