Friday, March 28, 2008

Religious Rights and Responsibilities

Today I heard about two news stories involving the rights of the religious. Let's just say it's not a proud day for the faithful.

First, a pharmacist who believes birth control is sinful refused to fill a prescription, and then refused to transfer it to another pharmacy. This pharmacist was sanctioned by the Pharmacy Examining Board, and a court recently (and rightly, in my opinion) upheld the sanction.

Secondly, and tragically, a girl died as a result of untreated diabetes because her parents refused to take her to the doctor and instead relied on prayer alone.

The rational of the religious in both stories is that it was their religious right to do what they did. They were only following their conscience, and doing what they believed was right. We can't force people to do something they believe is morally wrong, can we?

No, we can't. In the United States, we have the right to practice our religion as we see fit, and part of that right is that we should not be forced to do things that we find morally objectionable.

However, some in the religious community, over-eager to solidify this right, seem to have forgotten that with rights come responsibilities. Although I think he was wrong, the pharmacist has the right to refuse to fill the prescription, and even refuse to transfer it if he truly had moral objections. However, in practicing his right, he also needs to be held responsible for his decision. He was responsible for making sure his employer understood his moral stand, and his employer should have had every right to terminate his employment as a result of it. If I take a job as a waiter, and then refuse to serve someone alcohol because I am a Mormon (and I don't think I would refuse, for the record), then I'd fully expect my employer to fire me, unless they were gracious enough to try to make other accommodations. It would be the responsible thing to do to tell my employer of my convictions before accepting the job, as the pharmacist should have done. I have the right to practice my religion as I see fit, but if my religious convictions conflict with my professional responsibilities, I should not have the right to remain employed.

The issue with the diabetic girl is a more sensitive topic. Did the parents have the right not to take this daughter to the hospital and pray instead? If I'm consistent with my previous argument, I'd say "Yes, and they are responsible for what happens as a result of that decision." But I just can't bring myself to say that a parent has the right to allow their child to die needlessly. Perhaps I could say: Yes, but they must be held responsible for their decision, which should have meant their legal custody over the girl should have been terminated, and social services should have taken her to the hospital.

Just as the pharmacist doesn't have the right to a job, these parents don't have the right to be parents if they make decisions that directly result in death for their child, whether those decisions are based on religious belief or not.

Religious people, including myself, should learn from these mistakes. Let us strive to learn true principles, live by them, and then take responsibility for them.

Matthew 26: 42. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

1 comment:

Jared said...

I agree with your thoughts on this issue.

I enjoy your post. Great subject matter every time. I don't alway comment,but I enjoy your site.