Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tolerance Vigilantes again . . .

3 comments:

Doughlas Remy said...

Gil, this looks like a pretty clear-cut case to me. EMU is a state university, not a sectarian one, and Ms. Ward’s scruples about counseling a homosexual student are out of place there. She knew, or could easily have ascertained, what the policies of the counseling program were when she entered it. Those policies are based on accepted practice and sound science. Why should EMU allow any of its staff to flout those policies? Students have opted to attend a secular university and should not have to navigate around Ms. Ward’s religious principles when they need counseling.

If Ms. Ward has very strong religious principles that are in conflict with the requirements of a job demanding adherence to standard healthcare practices, then she has probably chosen the wrong profession. Alternatively, she might be able to find a place in some other institution, though her degree would probably have far less value if that institution’s policies were not in line with standard practices.

I think you might see this more clearly in the hypothetical case of a medical school student who converts to Christian Science and decides he can no longer perform certain procedures (or indeed any!). Do you think his medical school should try to accommodate his beliefs while continuing to pay him?

Dean said...

What Doughlas said.

I think ultimately secular challenges to religious authority in the workplace will win out in any rational debate.  The woman in question knew what her job responsibilities were when she was hired.  The time to object is before taking on the job.  Conscientious objection is a sound principle in our Democracy.  People can decline serving in a U.S. military draft if their objections are ruled reasonable on moral grounds for the sake of preserving life.  But what about someone who starts with the assumption that homosexuality is a learned behavior, based on a simple lifestyle choice?  Then her objections, in spite of Biblical pleading, are going to be confronted by factual science and behavioral studies that contradict the Biblical model.  She could, one imagines, resist on the basis of competency, but this wasn't the issue. She insists that she "could not affirm homosexuality because of her relationship with Christ" even though Christ never uttered one word about homosexuality, and in spite of the fact that her counseling role requires and demands a degree of objectivity free of bias that is independent of the affirmation or dismissal of her clients personal issues.

 No one requires her to affirm homosexuality.  No one can force her to think a certain way, or to hold a certain view.  But they can and should encourage her by all means possible to confront and seriously consider what possible advantage there can be either to herself or to society at large by being dismissive of someone because her conviction tells her that they are "sinners".  Does this mean they are worthy of rejection or shunning? Aren't we all sinners?  Is this the "body of Christ working together"?  Sounds more like the body of Christ in a bio suit trying to avoid being infected from the outside by people for whom Christ gave his life in love.  Too late.  We're all infected.  Her refusal to help someone in need on the basis of belief in a savior who asks her to be charitable to everyone including those who are treated as the least among us, is a strange way to fulfill the demands of her faith.  Nothing in the hippocratic oath requires a medical doctor to affirm his acceptance of risky sexual behavior when he prescribes penicillin to a patient with syphilis or gonorrhea, he helps his patients because of an oath to do no harm, and to render service without judgment.  But in the real world, he knows that If he declines treating a patient who could be cured from a deadly disease for the sake of his religious beliefs, he will soon be out of a job, and hopefully out of that profession.  

She's right.  This is not going to go away.  

Doughlas Remy said...

Well said, Dean. I might add that this whole incident is very revealing about the status of religion-based objections to homosexuality in our society. That they have no place in a counseling environment has been affirmed again and again by every mental health and medical association in the U.S. Nor should they be endorsed by any publicly-funded institution such as schools and universities. Students should have access to services that are informed by the best science available.

The panel of professionals who gave Ms. Ward’s case a hearing voted unanimously to expel her. Little wonder, considering her obvious lack of familiarity with scientific literature or her disregard of it. Her reference to the “homosexual lifestyle” was the dead give-away, and I can almost imagine the doctors wincing when they heard this antiquated expression.

I’m very pleased to learn that our publicly-funded state universities are not caving to this kind of nonsense. Ms. Ward is entitled to her beliefs, but mainstream science does not support them, and she has no business counseling gay youth. If Ms. Ward had religious objections to handling pork, she would be well advised not to pursue a career in the meat department of her local Safeway.