Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Conscience rights for all, or just for some?

I came across this alarmist item from a right-leaning anti-sharia blog:
Wegman’s has put up a sign asking customers buying pork or alcohol not to use a particular checkout line when a Muslim teenager is on duty as the cashier. ... If you dont want to handle meat that’s not halal, work for a Muslim butcher.  Don’t take a job at Wegman’s, Wal-mart or Target. But it is not about that. It’s about imposing Islam on non-Muslims. Special accommodations for a “special class.” This is part of a systematic campaign to impose the sharia on the secular marketplace.
It’s not ok and should not be tolerated. If you want to live in an Islamic country you are free to do so. The overwhelming majority of Americans do not want to live under sharia law. Contact Wegmans and your elected officials.
Now, I obviously support the separation of church and state.  And as a woman, I like being able to drive a car, choose my spouse, and wear whatever I damn well please.  So if someone tries to supplant our Constitution with sharia law, I will fight that person tooth and nail.

But that is clearly light years away from what is happening here.  This is a teenage grocery cashier exercising her freedom of conscience, and she is doing it in a way that is respectful of others' rights.  Good for her!  When this blog author writes that the kid shouldn't have taken a job at Wegman's, I can't help but be reminded of those who say "If you're pro-life, you shouldn't have gone into medicine."

Naturally, I find the objection to participation in abortions much easier to understand than the objection to pork and alcohol.  But the whole point of conscience rights is that you get to exercise them even if your position seems nonsensical to others.

Last month, religious conservatives across the country staged protests against the HHS rule that requires Catholic institutions to include contraception in their insurance plans, against their religious scruples.  I hope that they show the same enthusiasm for future conscience situations: whether it's an atheist medical student who refuses to take a course on abortion, or a young Muslim who politely asks customers to take their pork chop to another lane.


Michelle Zhang said...

I absolutely agree.

Maria Tsikalas said...

Great post!

Frank Bellamy said...

I agree that some of the quoted rhetoric about a systematic campaign to impose sharia law and such is probably not an accurate description of what happened. However, I do agree with the general sentiment that this person should not have taken this job. In a pluralistic society, everybody has to play by the same rules. You can't go around asking to be allowed to break the rules that everyone else has to follow just because your conscience says so. If every other cashier at wegmans has to sell pork or wine or whatever it is, and this guy is a cashier at wegmans, then he should have to sell it to.

There may not be much harm to an exemption here, but a lot of other exemptions do cause harm. Christian scientists are exempted from laws against child abuse when they don't get their sick children medical treatment, and children die or are disabled for life from perfectly preventable diseases. Religious day care centers don't have to follow the same regulations as other daycare centers about staff/child ratio and such, and the overworked staff looses track of a kid in the daycare center's van, and the kid dies. These kinds of things happen all the time as a result of exemptions for "conscience." So I don't think we should grant such exemptions.

RossHeckmann said...

I agree with you. I applaud Wegmen's and deplore the sentiments expressed by the blog writer. Just who decides whom is supposed to leave this country? How would the blog writer like to have the tables turned against him, and have somebody tell him that if he doesn't like living in a country where there is religious freedom and where reasonable accommodations are made for the conscientious, he should go to Saudi Arabia? said...

Ross, I imagine the blog writer would not be pleased, LOL.

Frank, I see where you're coming from. I'd definitely support an exception to conscience rights in situations where it causes physical harm to others. And in fact, that's what we do when it comes to Jehovah's Witnesses who want to refuse a blood donation for their dying child. So why don't we apply that same principle to the Christian Scientists situation you describe? That's where the inconsistency is.

Michelle Zhang said...

But that's the same argument against those against Plan B taking jobs at pharmacies.

Jen R said...

I'm OK with this accomodation for the cashier. Now, if a Muslim employer tried to pay their employees with money that could not be used to buy pork or alcohol, then we'd have a problem.

Anonymous said...

And yet you'll still vote republican because at the end of the day, nothing matters more than making abortions illegal.

Never mind poverty, hunger, economic insecurity, and other causes that motive people to get abortions. Focus on making abortions illegal. That'll solve the problem.

Poverty, hunger, and economic insecurity are much harder to change than butchering women's rights.

Anonymous said...

I'm against legally sanctioned rights of conscience. A person in the public is not allowed to deny service to another person, period!

There is no difference between not cashing out a person, because of pork or alcohol & choosing to not chash out a person, because of race, gender, age, orientation, etc. It does not matter if I am against abortion, if I am a pharmacist I have a legal obligation to provide service to a woman filling a prescription that will cause a chemical abortion ot filling a prescription for plan B. It has nothing to do with my beliefs.

The same goes for if I'm a cashier and I have two men buying condoms. I have to sell those condoms to them, whether I believe people should use them or not, or whether I believe those two men might be a couple or not. My personal belief & opinion doesn't supercede the other person's right to service without discrimination!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100% Frank Bellamy. I don't believe conscience right exemptions should be allowed either.