06 October 2011

Not a simple issue

Refused and Confused - New York Times, Oct 05, 2011 - Linda Greenhouse

Off the cuff I think that people who use their religion/other positions to refuse service to others should give up the employment that asks them to serve the public.

But do I think that way because the services being discussed in the article are ones I believe should be available... or because it is sound policy to require any legally available service to be provided no matter what the personal beliefs of the providing individual? I'm trying to think of services that I might find distasteful or morally wrong and see how I feel about this from the other side...

I need a philosopher to toss this around with. In lieu of one showing up at my door here's what I'm thinking...

The crux of the matter - either:
  • employees are forced to provide services they abhor to the public at large, or to specific groups of people,
  • employees get to pick and choose what services they will provide and/or to whom...
Does it violate a person's civil rights to force them to perform a service, or make a service available, if they feel it is a morally wrong thing to do?

Does it violate an individual's civil rights to have a government/agency employee deny them a legal service because the employee feels, a.) it is morally wrong that anyone receive the service (e.g. birth control, abortion), or b.) that the person is morally wrong for asking for the service (e.g. marriage licenses for same-sex couples, police protection for abortion doctors/clinics)?

Honestly, even if it is questionable (in regard to civil rights) to ask an employee to provide a service they feel is morally wrong, I cannot think of a situation where an individual's rights would trump the rights of a person seeking a legally provided service. But that might be a slippery slope of another sort...

When this kind of news story appears I end up feeling that too many people brandish their beliefs at the rest of us without actually living according to them. If you believe that same-sex marriage is morally wrong, it's not living your beliefs to deny a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Living your beliefs - following your moral code - would be quitting your job if it required you to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

That's how it plays out inside my head anyway.

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