Church & state and ‘beliefs’ that believers don’t care about

Republican state Sen. Dennis Kruse of has introduced a bill that would allow Indiana public schools to require students to recite the Lord’s prayer each morning.

Um … which Lord’s prayer?

Sen. Dennis Kruse wants to require Indiana schoolchildren to pray to Lord Cthulhu in His House at R’lyeh.

I don’t just mean the subtle differences of “debts” and “trespasses,” I mean that there are as many different Lord’s prayers as there are different Lords.

Could a school require students to recite this one?

In His House at R’lyeh Dead Cthulhu waits dreaming, yet He shall rise and His kingdom shall cover the Earth. …

To select an “official” Lord’s Prayer is to select to privilege one sect above all the others. It is, in other words, to establish an official religion.

Sen. Kruse wants to make a law respecting the establishment of religion and prohibiting the free exercise thereof. That’s not allowed.

Speaking of the First Amendment: Three nurses no longer work at an Indiana hospital because they refused to get flu shots.

The hospital has at least two good reasons for dismissing these nurses. First is simple public safety — having nurses who might be walking around and giving all of your patients the flu would be negligent bordering on reckless.

And second, hospitals really aren’t looking to hire medical professionals who don’t believe in professional medicine. Nor are they looking to hire nurses who defiantly refuse to protect the health of patients. Hiring a nurse who doesn’t “believe in” flu shots is a bit like hiring an auto mechanic who doesn’t believe in internal combustion. Or, you know, like hiring a nurse who doesn’t believe in hand-washing.

But the nurses’ attorney says their disbelief in modern medicine must be respected, because it’s their free exercise of religion:

lan Phillips, who represented several nurses at the hospital, says his clients had the right to refuse their flu shots under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination of employees. Religion is legally broad under the First Amendment, so it could include any strongly held belief, he said, adding that the belief flu shots are bad should suffice.

“If your personal beliefs are religious in nature, then they are a protected belief,” Phillips said.

But Phillips case has nothing to do with his clients’ “personal beliefs,” it has to do with their right to work as medical professionals despite their purported “religious” devotion to holy influenza. Phillips is pretending that this is a civil liberties case akin to the defense of conscientious objectors. It’s far stranger than that — it’s more like a pacifist Mennonite suing to become a U.S. Marine.

In any case, I have a very hard time accepting that these nurses really do believe “flu shots are bad” when, at the same time, they are completely uninterested in the question, “Are flu shots, actually, bad?” and when they seem unconcerned with the hospital’s flu-shot policies except as they pertain to themselves.

These nurses formerly worked at a hospital that requires its staff to get flu shots, and that administers flu shots to patients. Anyone who worked there and really believed “flu shots are bad” ought to be fighting those policies, arguing that the hospital must stop providing the shots for patients and stop requiring the shots for employees.

But Phillips isn’t arguing that the hospital should change its rules, only that the rules shouldn’t apply to his clients.

In other words, it doesn’t seem that these nurses lost their jobs out of devotion to their belief that “flu shots are bad.” It seems they lost their jobs out of devotion to their belief that “Nobody can ever make me get (or understand) a flu shot.”

When someone claims that a belief is a deeply held religious conviction, but simultaneously doesn’t seem at all interested in the substance of that purported belief, then it’s hard to see them as sincere. “Conviction” suggests interest and concern. Faith without interest is dead.

Related:

In South Dakota, a state senator, Jeff Monroe (R-Pierre), has introduced a bill making it easier for parents to refuse to get their children vaccinated thus guaranteeing an increase in deaths from preventable causes. Monroe says it’s all about religious freedom. South Dakota is already one of the states that allows parents to opt out of vaccinations if that is part of the doctrine of their sect. That’s not good enough for Monroe. He believes parents should be allowed to opt out if they have a “sincere, verifiable religious belief,” even if it’s at odds with the teaching of their sect.

 

  • Fusina

    Just saw the letter from the owners of Hobby Lobby regarding the reason
    they won’t pay for contraceptives. Good to know that people who flunked
    biology can make it big in America.

    So if I say that my religious beliefs require me to not pay income taxes, because the money belongs to God and he gave it to me to use on his behalf…

    Nah, I don’t think that would work either.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Sad bit is, if you set yourself up as pastor of a church, it probably would.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I think that’s why this contraception mandate struggle is so important. Not just for its own sake, but because of how much damage they’ll do if they win this fight. If merely asserting a religious belief allows you to negate all legal responsibilities — well, what happens if I come up with a religion that carrying car insurance is a sin, and then I go get into a car crash with someone else? From a wider public policy perspective, it’s basically impossible to regulate anything at all if every single individual gets to exercise a veto like that. 

  • Darkrose

    I would totally go to a school that required me to pray to Cthulhu. If I didn’t, I might get eaten first.

  • ReverendRef

    So if someone decides to resurrect the Aztec religion, becomes a priest of said religion, and holds a deeply held belief that human sacrifice is good, can they start with Senators Kruse and Monroe?

    I know . . . but I’m tired and pissy.

  • Needled

    This is why promoting ‘belief’ in things regardless of the evidence to support them is generally a bad idea. I wish the article had explained why the nurse’s religion prevents them having flu shots (or at least, why they interpret that it does). There must be some kind of justification for it, even if it’s totally ridiculous.

    If my employer wanted to give me a flu shot I’d jump at the chance. I’m not in any of  the at-risk groups but it’s always nice to have protection.

    The anti-vaccination movement scares me. It’s amazing the damage one corrupt doctor faking his results can cause. Combine that with the power of the internet to spread around false information and you have a disaster.

  • cjmr

    I do find myself wondering how many studies have been done with regards to nurse/patient flu transmission, though.

  • Fusina

     I dunno, are women allowed to be priests in the Aztec religion?

    Also tired and pissy. And increasingly unwilling to allow people to spread misinfor… no, I’ma start calling it like it is… _lies_ around without calling them on it.

  • stardreamer42

    This is an inevitable result of the trend that started with allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for Plan B and the Pill (and yes, there are those who object to both) out of “religious conviction”. 

    If your religion interferes with your ability to DO YOUR JOB, then you either need another religion or another job.

  • Chrissl

    I am pondering what a “verifiable” religious belief could mean if that’s what the South Dakota bill actually says. Few religious beliefs are “verifiable” in the sense of supplying proof that the thing believed is actually true, in a way most rational people would accept (f. ex. “proving” that God exists).

    Perhaps it is supposed to mean “verifiably religious”, which is a different question. I guess what you would do to verify that the belief is actually religious would be to search for it in books regarded as scriptures of whatever faith, or ask people if they consider their belief “religious” and why.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    If your religion interferes with your ability to DO YOUR JOB, then you either need another religion or another job.

    Well, if that‘s the standard, then the trend did not start with pharmacists.

    For example, when the courts limit my employer’s ability to make me, as an Orthodox Jew, work on Saturdays, they’ve asserted that sometimes, when my religion interferes with my ability to do my job, my employer needs to make accommodations.

    Perhaps that was a mistake, but if so, it was a mistake we made a long time ago.

    It seems that where we are now is trying to decide what accommodations are reasonable to require, and what accommodations are not.

  • ReverendRef

     I dunno, are women allowed to be priests in the Aztec religion?

    I don’t see why not — they are in the Episcopal church.  And I’m relatively sure that the right-wing RTC’s are convinced that Episcopalians and Aztecians are equally bound for hell.

  • Carstonio

    I was hoping this entry would be about same-sex marriage, since some deputy court clerks in my area (where Catholics predominate) are refusing to officiate. While I wouldn’t force such clerks to officiate, I also believe they should find other work if this is so important to them. It’s the equivalent of a vegetarian server at a restaurant refusing to wait on meat-eating customers. 

    I’m not sure that Fred’s specific case against the flu shot refusal would apply here. The conscience argument that the clerks are using almost seems to equate officiating at a wedding with actually taking the vows. Or else it implies that they’re aiding and abetting a moral crime. If it’s the latter, they might be falsely assuming that they have power over other people’s orientation, like the couples would break up and find opposite-sex spouses. And if they feel that homosexuality itself is such a moral crime, then they should devote their time to trying to restore the old sodomy laws.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Those are different things, though.

    Pharmacists are required to dispense medication. They are not supposed to care what the pills are except insofar as it is necessary to ensure that the medication is prescribed by a medical professional, the medication the customer gets is exactly what the medical professional prescribed, and no fuckery will occur by mixing that medication with another medication the customer has been prescribed. Dispensing medication regardless of what it is is a key part of the pharmacist’s job description. Refusing to dispense a particular medication is quite capable of causing immense harm to the person who consequently can’t get the prescribed meds.

    Working on Friday isn’t a key part of your job description. There is nothing requiring your two days off a week to be Saturday and Sunday; in fact the biggest reason to have Sunday off is it’s the day Christians typically go to church. No harm is done by scheduling things so that you have off Friday and Christians have off Sunday, and it’s discriminatory on religious grounds to schedule Christians off Sunday and not schedule you off Friday.

    It might be simplest to categorize them as a pharmacist refusing on religious grounds to dispense contraception is an instance of religion interfering with job and an employer refusing to schedule you off on your religion’s day of rest is an instance of job interfering with religion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    I would totally go to a school that required me to pray to Cthulhu. If I didn’t, I might get eaten first.

    Even worse, you might not get eaten first.  Being among the first eaten is usually considered one of the greatest blessings Lord Cthulhu can grant one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    If my employer wanted to give me a flu shot I’d jump at the chance. I’m not in any of  the at-risk groups but it’s always nice to have
    protection.

    This just makes me giggle, coming from someone with the handle “Needled”.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I think what “verifiable” means in this context is just that we have reason to believe it really is part of their  religious practice and they aren’t just making shit up.

    What constitutes adequate reason to believe that, I’m not really sure. I doubt that Monroe knows. Asking people seems like a reasonable place to start.

  • Lizzy L

    So if I convert to a religion which says that charging interest on a loan is against God’s will, do I get to stop paying interest on my mortgage?  Because I am SO down with that.

  • Abby Normal

    What I don’t get is this– these guys are all into having a “personal relationship with Jesus”, yes?

    Well, how does one develop a “personal relationship” with a being that the state forces you to worship?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Yes, I agree that they are different things.

    Yes, I agree that making these kinds of distinctions, between accommodations that it makes sense to require and accommodations that make no sense to require, is precisely what we need to do.

    And yes, the kind of analysis you’re talking about here… looking at the specifics of job requirements, and why those requirements exist, and what risk of harm accrues as a consequence of excepting individual employees from those requirements, and what risk of harm accrues as a consequence of not excepting individual employees from those requirements… that kind of analysis is precisely what needs to happen when we make these distinctions. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    a religion which says that charging interest on a loan is against God’s will

    Isn’t that all the Abrahamic religions?

  • Rae

    I would only go to a school like that if we prayed to Cthulhu in R’leyhian. Praying to the Great Cthulhu in any other language is heresy!

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Huh.  What a FRAKKING SHOCK that the anti-vaxxers, one of the most selfish little groupings out there, are claiming a “verifiable” religious exemption from protecting themselves and others.

    (If only a piece of my comment showed up, it was because my finger accidentally hit the edit button too quickly.)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Once again. I believe, really, truly, passionately, sincerely that 4=5. I demand legal protection for my right to only pay $80 on a $100 bill.

  • Helena

    Kent Hovind tried it.

  • Lori

     

    The conscience argument that the clerks are using almost seems to equate
    officiating at a wedding with actually taking the vows. Or else it
    implies that they’re aiding and abetting a moral crime.   

    Someone needs to ask these clerks if, in the course of their duties, they have ever performed a marriage ceremony for a couple where at least one of them was divorced. If the answer is “yes” then the correct response to their “conscience argument” is, “STFU you hypocrite and either do your damn job or quit and let someone else have it.”

    I have no patience with this kind of situational attack of conscience and either should anyone else. 

  • Helena

    Isn’t using f. ex. instead of e.g. a sign of the apocalypse.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Calling the view of anti-vaccers a “religious belief” is just bullshit. It’s simultaneously offensive to both science and actual religious belief.

  • Ursula L

    Working on Friday isn’t a key part of your job description. There is nothing requiring your two days off a week to be Saturday and Sunday; in fact the biggest reason to have Sunday off is it’s the day Christians typically go to church. No harm is done by scheduling things so that you have off Friday and Christians have off Sunday, and it’s discriminatory on religious grounds to schedule Christians off Sunday and not schedule you off Friday.

    The problem with this is that you wind up with employers being expected to accommodate religious people and people whose religions require a particular day off to worship, at the expense of non-religious people and people whose religions do not require a particular day off.

    Which really stinks, if everyone wants Saturdays off, but you only get Saturday if you are Jewish.  Or if you get Christmas off if you go to church, but not if you celebrate it as a secular midwinter holiday that is a long-standing tradition in your family.  

    So yes, there is harm done if you give religious people their choice of day off for religious reasons, because it means that non-religious people wind up having to cover those days, even if there are things they can only do on that day of the week that they would enjoy as much as a religious person enjoys worshiping. 

    If I want a Saturday off to take my neblings to the park when they are off school, it is no less important than a Jewish person wanting Saturday off for the Sabbath, and for an employer to insist otherwise or the state to insist that the employer accommodate them at my expense is to establish that religion and discriminate against my beliefs.  

  • mountainguy

    “it’s more like a pacifist Mennonite suing to become a U.S. Marine.”

    funny thing, I ‘m pretty sure no single one of them has sued USA govt to become a US marine, but quite the contrary.

  • Jessica_R

    I think “verifiable” religious belief is none to subtle code for “(white) Christian belief” as witness to Louisiana RTCers who loved public school vouchers for private religious schools until, gasp choke, Muslims wished to use them to build a private religious school based on their faith. 

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    So what oo you propose?

  • Carstonio

    While I share your lack of patience, I also think the arguments deserve deconstruction.    Such opponents sound as if they’re reusing old arguments for South African divestment, without grasping that the universities were profiting financially from apartheid as well as perpetuating it. I suspect the clerks are getting paid the same no matter how many weddings they officiate, so their acceptance or refusal directly impacts only the couples involved. The same goes for pharmacists who would refuse to dispense contraception, although these are probably outnumbered by the grandstandars who claim to be protecting the consciences of such pharmacists.  

    At least the business owner below decided to take the financial hit rather than sacrifice his alleged convictions. Alleged because, again, 
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-ar-annapolis-trolley-suspends-wedding-servic-20121225,0,5029853.story

  • hidden_urchin

    I would dearly love it for someone to ask those nurses if they think that their supposed right to work with ill people while unvaccinated is more important than those people’s right to life. 

    That’s what were really talking about here.  For an immunocompromised person, influenza can very well mean death.  It’s not the harmless illness that some people seem to think it is. 

  • Ursula L

    Well, the person doing the scheduling can take requests for days off, and draw names from a hat or otherwise randomly choose who gets the day off when the schedule can’t accommodate everyone getting their preferred day. Everyone can request days off, but no preference is given based on religion.  

    Or rotate from week to week who gets first choice of days off.  Perhaps employees can privately choose to swap days off, provided they have the same skill set, if there is no pressure or coercion.  Or the employer might pay more to employees willing to work on popular preferred days off, adjusting the pay to the point where enough people are willing to work on the undesirable day for the sake of the extra money. (And if this means quadruple pay for Christmas day, than that’s what the market price is for getting people to work that day.)But you don’t establish one set or type of belief as more important than another, and you don’t discriminate among employees based on their beliefs.  

    Because no one’s god is more important than my nieces, and you spending time with your god is not more important than me spending time with my nieces. 

  • ReverendRef

     Once again. I believe, really, truly, passionately, sincerely that 4=5

    There . . . Are . . . FOUR . . . LIGHTS!!!!!!

    I  know that’s not what you were going for, but it’s the first thing I thought of.

  • Lori

    I also think the arguments deserve deconstruction.    

    I pretty much don’t. I think deconstructing their “argument” gives it more credence than it deserves. I’m not dead set on that because leaving an argument unchallenged, no matter how stupid it is, tends to lead to badness. Still, I’m generally not in favor of acting like their claims are worthy of the slightest bit of attention because they so obviously are not.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Doesn’t paying overtime for “popular preferred days off” but not “unpopular” ones pretty much guarantee that one group or another will be given de facto “more important” status?

  • Lori

    I don’t think that acknowledging that there’s more competition for certain days off is the same as saying that those days are more important. Certainly not to the extent that we now favor the days that Christians typically want off by making them official national and company holidays.

    And does it really make sense to define “more important” strictly in terms of pay any way? After all, if your preferred day off is less “important” you won’t get paid as much if you have to work it, but you’re more likely to actually get it off.

  • Ursula L

    My thought is to base it on actual requests for a particular day off, not a pre-set calender.  The day may coincide with a religious holiday, or it may be the day when the local school is having a concert and several employees want to go see their kids perform.  The reason for wanting a day off is irrelevant, what matters is whether enough people want the day off so that you have to give some a greater incentive to work on a day they’d prefer not to.  

    So if Christmas falls on a Saturday, you will have Jews wanting the day off for the Sabbath, Christians wanting it off for worship, and others wanting it off for secular family celebrations.

    So you set up some sort of auction, where the pay for that day off goes up, until enough people have signed up to cover it.  (Everyone who works gets paid at the highest rate, because you don’t want to discourage people from saying they’ll work in order to hold out for more.)  

    Or draw straws for who gets the day off, etc.  

  • Dan Audy

    That is very interesting and well put.  I had never considered how accommodating religious requirements would produce negative externalities.  I know that while employers are not able to ask about religion in hiring that they can outline the hours and job requirements and not hire people who are unable to meet those requirements (e.g. not hiring a observant Jew who is unwilling to work the Sabbath as a nightclub bartender because on either Friday or Saturday night, depending on when sunset falls that season, they would be unavailable to work).  

    If a compelling argument could be made that weekend days off were preferential (an easy argument to make) it could be discrimination against non-religious or religions without a weekend Sabbath to consistently grant these days off only on religious ground.  I wonder how the current Title VII interpretations that lack of religion is a valid class of the ‘religion’ component to be considered for discrimination would play out if this ever got legally challenged.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Would this apply to special holidays only, or regular non-work days (weekend equivalents) as well?

  • tatortotcassie

    So Kruse wants to force all Indiana public school children to recite “The Lord’s Prayer.”  This would be the same Kruse who wanted to allow creationism to be taught in school with the same credence given to evolution. 

    Meanwile,  there are websites popping up on giving parents tips on how to manipulate the religious exemption for not vaccinating; Louisiana has school vouchers for places that teach that the Loch Ness monster is proof that dinosaurs lived alongside humans; we have government officials — serving on the Science Board, no less! — claiming that the earth is no more than 9000 years old, that “legitimately raped” women can’t get pregnant, that birth control causes abortions, and that “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.” 

    And then people complain when the U.S. comes in at #25 out of 34 countries in math and science competency. 

    In other words, this is why we can’t have nice things.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    In His House at R’lyeh Dead Cthulhu waits dreaming, yet He shall rise and His kingdom shall cover the Earth. …

    No, no, no, you cannot properly say the prayer in English.  There are just so many concepts being expressed in the prayer that do not translate into your clumsy human language.  No, to recite the prayer properly you need to say it in the original language (or as near as the wretched human tongue can manage):

    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtan!
    Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!
    Cthulhu R’lyeh fhtagn!

    Here is an example of the ritual being properly invoked.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

     … I just get these headaches.

  • Otrame

    I have a teeshirt that says :
    What part of
    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn
    don’t you understand?

    I fully expect the members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to insist on being allowed full pirate regalia while saying the daily school prayer. It is long-standing religious practice for us.

    I always liked the FSM best because you can be a member of His Church and still be an atheist. He says he doesn’t care if you believe in him, because he’s not that vain.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    That is normal.  It is merely your tiny human mind struggling to accept the grand truths imparted by our Eldritch Lord of The Deep and The Void.  

  • Otrame

    I liked Gareth David-Lloyd’s reading of the ritual. He did the audiobook of the Call of Chthulhu.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

     And I thought it was to do with the Klatchian Coffee.

  • reynard61

    Normally this is about where someone comes in and apologizes for the rank and utter stupidity shown by some idiot from his or her state with a government title in front of their name and a letter (usually — but not exclusively — an “R”) after. Well, not this time. As a Hoosier (and one who *votes*, by the way) you all have my permission to rag on my resident State, State Sen. Kruse, and me and my fellow Hoosiers as unmercifully as you wish because we damn well *DESERVE* it. (And, in fact, I’ll *join* you!) Yeah! Screw you, Indiana! You’re getting to be as bad as Texas, Louisiana and Florida…*COMBINED!!!*

    Also; if I actually had kids to send to school (Thank Luna and Celestia I don’t!!!), I would demand that they be allowed to pray to The Goddesses. Because I can.


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