Today’s outrage on the Right is that a grocery chain in Britain allows its Muslim employees to refuse to ring up sales of pork or liquor. Instead, they may politely direct the customer to another cashier.
The reaction on the American Right has been swift and derisive. If you want a representative sampling, you may proceed to the comments at Weasel zippers. Be warned; it’s ugly stuff.
At least the customers can purchase liquor and pork, even if they have to wait in another line. But what about pharmacists who refuse to either fill birth control prescriptions or direct customers to another pharmacy? Or even transfer a prescription?
What about Catholic hospitals who refuse to perform abortions even when the pregnancy is doomed and the woman must unnecessarily endure a painful miscarriage?
For a time we were seeing ambulance drivers refusing to transfer women from hospitals that didn’t do abortions to abortion clinics that did. And these were situations in which the woman was in crisis and it was the judgment of doctors to terminate the pregnancy.
In those cases, the consequences were much more extreme than just having to go wait in another line.
And haven’t we just been told it is wrong for an employers to punish employees for their religious beliefs? Steve M:
But wait: it’s utterly wrong for people who are offended by this policy to retaliate in a way that threatens Marks & Spencer’s livelihood, isn’t it? Haven’t we just spent the last few days being told by conservatives that that sort of retaliation is fascism, because people have absolute freedom to offend you, while you have no right to respond?
Weren’t we told that suspending a millionaire TV actor who said insulting things about gay, black, and Japanese people is “totalitarian” and comparable to the worst Soviet abuses? Haven’t we been informed that going on social media to mock a racist tweet about AIDS from Justine Sacco, a high-level public relations executive (who’s since been fired), amounts to an “online assassination”?
So a boycott of Marks & Spencer would be just as horrible … wouldn’t it, right-wingers?
For the grocery store chain, seems to me it could keep everybody happy by designating some cash registers as “pork and liquor can be paid for here” registers staffed by non-Muslim staff. That way customers are not inconvenienced. But if your “moral refusal” puts someone else’s life in danger, you shouldn’t be in that job.
(And don’t get me started on employers whose moral refusal doesn’t allow birth control to be covered on employees’ insurance policies.)
The righties are pointing to a wedding photographer in New Mexico who was fined for refusing to document a same-sex wedding, on religious grounds. In this case the couple hired another photographer but then sued the first one. The first photographer was in violation of state law, but one might argue nobody ever died from having to hire another wedding photographer. But if we allowed one business to discriminate, how far would that go? Could restaurants refuse to serve gay couples (how would they know?) Now we’re wading into some really ugly territory.
It occurs to me that a lot of Christians also might feel morally compromised by having to serve or sell liquor. In the U.S., in many states groceries or stores other than liquor stores don’t sell liquor. Here in NY you can buy beer and really awful watered-down wine in groceries, but you have to go to a liquor store for other stuff. But what if a state suddenly allowed liquor sales in groceries, and Baptist clerks refused to ring it up? I don’t know that it’s ever happened, but it’s not impossible.
(For the record, some schools of Buddhism forbid followers from selling alcohol, poisons, or weapons, and I think meat also. I’d have to look it up. In some cases selling alcohol is discouraged but not necessarily drinking it, just not to excess.)
Oh, well. Another day, another hypocrisy.