The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey was sued by 12 nurses who claimed they were forced to assist on abortion procedures. They said that it was against their religion to help doctors and other hospital staff. The university did settle with the nurses before it went to court. But, the precedent is set.
When the nurses originally complained, they were re-assigned so they would not be present at the actual procedure. But, the nurses were required to help out in the pre and post procedure. Other nurses had to be hired to cover for the complaining nurses’ re-assignment.
How far will our community allow people to object to an activity because it is against their religion or personal beliefs? Most of the time, this issue comes up with abortion. There are pharmacists who refuse to provide birth control pills or the morning after drug. There are religious schools that object to having to cover abortions in their health insurance plans.
But, there are other issues as well. There are religious landlords that don’t want to rent to unmarried or same sex couples. A few days ago a post was made to this blog about a women in a department store that would not allow a transgender to use the women’s dressing room in the store because of her personal religious beliefs, this despite store policy that allowed it.
If these types of complaints and actions are given approval by our communities and court systems, there will be many more that will arise. There will be the Muslim food handler that will not serve up the blue plate special at the local dinner because it is a pulled pork sandwich. There may be Christian therapist that will refuse to counsel parents that are seeking a divorce because married couples shouldn’t get divorced.
Individuals do have the right and the responsibility to act in their own conscience. The nurses that were discussed at the opening were trained in the professional long after Roe v Wade. They knew that at some point in time they may be involved in an abortion procedure. The nurses perhaps need to find a situation where they will not be involved. When other people open up a business, like the landlord mentioned above, and seek the protection from the community, they can’t at the same time refuse services to others in the community. People get to their position in life partly out of the help of others in the community. To refuse service to those that had a hand in helping them is just wrong.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that people need to help those that are involved in an illegal act. It is the individual’s responsibility to report such activity or risk being part of the crime. But, all of the mentioned situations here are legal.
It would be easy if we lived in a completely homogeneous society and culture. Everyone would believe in the same thing and there wouldn’t be any disagreement. But, ultimately, that leads to a form of dictatorship known as Racist Nationalism. This is just what happen to Germany under the Nazis. It is also what our culture complains the most about in other countries that have a strong religious leadership and makes all the finally judgments in the community. This is just what the court system is like in Iran; the top religious leader can strike down any law passed by the parliament.
Communities were created not so that they could separate into little enclaves, but so that they may live together in mutual support. By opening the way for individuals and groups to refuse to help others because of some difference between each other, we lay the ground work to break up into sectarian and partisan communities that will become dysfunctional at best. At worst, people from one enclave will refuse to defend another creating a cycle of revenge actions that will not stop.
To live in a community means that you agree to support each other. You still have individual choice, but having choice doesn’t mean you have to refuse to help others with their choices.