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.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University