Denying service

Lately there seems to be many assertions of a right to deny services that violate the religious beliefs of a provider. Some Christian pharmacists want to have no part of filling a birth control prescription, a few Muslim taxi drivers want to refuse to pick up customers with dogs or alcohol, and so forth.

Now, I figure such cases will eventually get resolved by the usual sort of political compromise, allowing conservative religious people some degree of moral posturing, while not inconveniencing their potential customers too much. I don’t necessarily like that—I would prefer not to keep encountering faith-based annoyances in the public realm—but as usual I’ll have to live with it.

More interesting, perhaps, is to ask myself what might violate my cynical, secular, disenchanted version of conscience so much that I’d want to deny service to someone. It might help me understand what motivates the pharmacists and taxi drivers, if nothing else.

But I can’t come up with anything serious. I guess if I were forced to teach creationism or New Age physics rather than real science, I’d be up in arms. But college teaching isn’t like that. I’m not obliged to supply different varieties of “teaching” according to student demand or political dictates. It’s hard for me to put myself in the position of a devout pharmacist who feels morally violated when she is forced to dispense certain medicines.

If I could more easily see myself in the shoes of a conservative religious person, I might be more sympathetic to their demands for accommodation, even denying service. I don’t know.

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About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • Dr Tim

    Selling guns? Would you sell automatic rifles?

  • Don

    I really don't see how this denial of service can be justified. It's the same argument used in the 60's by those in the South opposed to integration. If you provide a public service, you can't deny that service based on your pet prejudices.

  • CyberKitten

    I suppose the biggest thing they want to deny is reality…. That generally doesn't go so well.

  • Baconsbud

    I can't think of anything either. I guess atheist could come up with stuff but then it would be used as a more effective propaganda toy by christians then atheist can use their denial of services against them. I couldn't see any justification to deny them a service based on my beliefs.

  • geoih

    Since pharmacists in most states enjoy a state protected monopoly (i.e., must have a state license to sell pharmaceuticals), then I don't have a big problem with the state telling them they can't deny service.

    When pharmacists give up their monopoly, then they can be more discriminating about which drugs they choose to sell.