Matters of Conscience
by Earnest Prankheimer
You may recall that during the stolen Presidency of George W. Bush, there were a number of incidents wherein people at pharmacies refused to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. It was due to their religious convictions, they said. There was even an attempt in Congress to pass legislation called a “conscience clause.” I don’t think it passed, but I remember my first thought was “Mind your own damned business!” Yes, everyone is entitled to their own religious or other beliefs, but don’t preach it to me, I just came in to get some condoms.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has something she calls the Amish bus driver rule: If you’re Amish, and don’t believe in modern technology, you have no business applying for a job as bus driver. One would hope these potential problems could be resolved in the interview stage:
“I see here on your application, Mr. Benson, that you claim to be Amish. Is that correct?”
“As I understand it, your religion forbids you from operating machinery, isn’t that right?”
“Well, Mr. Benson, a big part of the job of bus driver is, uh, driving a bus. Would you have any problem with that?”
“Oh, yes, Sir. My religion forbids me from operating machinery.”
“Then I’m curious, Mr. Benson, why did you apply for this position?”
“I need a job.”
“Okay, thank you for coming in today, Mr. Benson, but I think we’re through, here.”
Did you know, gentle reader, there are science teachers in public schools across the nation who do not teach evolution in their classrooms, either by their own choice of by fiat of some school board that believes the Earth is only 6000 years old? To use an expression my Creator is fond of, I’m not making this up! And this is happening eighty-nine years after the Scopes trial. The mind reels, and finally topples over. I think if religion gets to invade the schools, turnabout is fair play. There should be a scientist standing next to every podium during the Sunday sermon. He can correct any historical errors: “Excuse me, Reverend, but if the sun stopped in the sky as is recorded in Joshua, continents would fly off into space and all life on Earth would perish. Sorry to interrupt.” That sounds fair to me.
Just in the last year or so, two or three bakeries have been sued for refusing to do cakes and such for same-sex weddings. There are those who will argue that business owners have the right to refuse service to anyone. That’s what they did fifty years ago at that Woolworths in Montgomery, AL, refusing service to black people at the lunch counter. The law has determined that if your business serves the public, you’re not allowed to discriminate against any persons or groups you don’t happen to agree with.
Perhaps my experiences of the other day will illustrate. I’m a bit of an agoraphobe, so I wait till I have a list of errands. I do them all, bam bam bam, and get back to the dark castle. I needed a washer for my dripping sink faucet, but the hardware store clerk said he was a Luddite. He doesn’t believe in technology, so he couldn’t sell me anything. Next I was off to the shoe store. The only clerk there said he belongs to PETA, and refused to sell me anything made of leather. It was a matter of conscience, he said.
Oh — sorry, I have to take this call. “Yeah. What? You’ve got to be kidding! Look, can I call you right back? I’ve got a bunch of people reading me right now. Okay, later.” Wow! That was my brother-in-law. His gall bladder operation was just postponed because his surgeon is a Christian Scientist, and won’t go near a scalpel. Well, just one more stop, the supermarket. I brought my loaded cart up to the end of the line. When it was my turn, the checkout lady said, “I just need to tell you, sir, I’m not going to be able to ring up your eggs, milk, cheese, and hamburger.”
“I’m a vegan. We don’t believe in eating that stuff. It’s a matter of conscience. You’ll have to pay for it at another checkout line.”
I loaded everything back up, moved to the next line, and waited. Everything was going fine, and then the guy at the register said, “Sorry, sir, I can’t ring up your grains. I’m on the Paleo diet. We don’t believe in eating agricultural products.”
“What do you do then,” I asked, “forage in the parks for fruits and berries?”
“Yes,” he smiled.
Oh well, I didn’t really want the quinoa anyway. “What about the lentils? I can still get the lentils, right?”
“Sorry sir — leguminous.”
“Leguminous — consisting of dicotyledonous plants constituting a family characterized by fruits that are legumes,” he said smugly, “first developed for agriculture about 6500 B.C. But Omar over on #4 can help you — he’s a pastafarian.”
“Pastafarian. You know, Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”
After the day I was having, I felt a parting shot was in order for Paleo boy, here. “Excuse me, when did you say legumes were first, uh, domesticated?”
“Gotcha,” I cried, “The Earth is only 6000 years old, dimwad!” I left the quinoa, lentils, Paleo boy, and everything else, and came home. What’s next, I thought, a radical Muslim school principal who refuses to teach girls? Later, my mind sharpened to razor focus by the drip . . . drip . . . drip . . . of the kitchen faucet, I began to wonder. What’s the difference between a clergyman who refuses to perform a same sex marriage, and Paleo boy? Is the former an example of freedom of religion, a matter of conscience? And is the latter an example of freedom from having someone else’s dogma shoved in your face? As I see it, if you have a moral objection to things involved in doing your job, you have two choices: get another job or shut the hell up. You don’t get to have it both ways. You know, I’ll bet you could interview any number of project managers at NASA, and you wouldn’t fine a single one who belongs to the Flat Earth Society.
All kidding aside, this is getting out of control. In the past few years, the Catholic Church has been on a merger and acquisition binge. One out of six hospital beds in America is either in a Catholic hospital or one affiliated with the Church. In my state of Washington that number is approaching 40%. Now you don’t have a bureaucrat between you and your doctor; you have the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a fossilized congregation of old, white, celibate men. When they’re not buggering altar boys, they’re busy bringing Bronze Age Jewish fairy tales into your room. You want to abort your rapist’s child? Forget about it. Vasectomies, birth control, or counseling on end of life decisions, should you have a painful, terminal disease? Too bad, God wants you to suffer. How about ectopic pregnancies, where the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, or other circumstances that put the mother at risk? That’s tough; now pray with me. This is absolutely insane. I know the Church does a lot of good for the poor and all that, but these religious police are putting people’s lives in danger, because doctors aren’t permitted to even mention possible options available to patients. Enough!
Believe whatever you want, but keep your faith out of my face. If you want to make a statement, do it on your own time, not mine. Drip . . . drip . . . drip . . . guess I’ll try another hardware store in the morning, and hope for the best.