Tag Archives: conscience clauses

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/22/2018: The Returns Of A Terrible Idea, A Times Mania, And Lord Acton’s Observation


1. Bad Ideas Never Die Dept. The Obama Administration  killed an unethical Bush Administration rule that permitted a wide variety of health care workers to refuse to administer treatments and procedures they found morally repugnant, what the Bush administration termed workers’ “right of conscience.” It was, and is, a terrible idea; The American Medical Association  explained why, in the context of opposing conscience outs for pharmacists, when it declared..

“RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association reaffirm our policies supporting responsibility to the patient as paramount in all situations and the principle of access to medical care for all people (Reaffirm HOD Policy)…

Now that bad idea and the same ethically warped principles are embodied in a new Trump administration policy that provides “religious freedom protections” for doctors, nurses and other health care workers who object to performing procedures like abortions and gender reassignment surgery. This is a sop to the Republican evangelical base. As I wrote here (actually partially quoting myself from an earlier article),

“Conscience clauses” came into being in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade opinion legalizing abortion. Obviously that right to privacy ruling put Catholic hospitals in a difficult position, so the U.S. Congress passed the Church amendment (named after Sen. Frank Church of Idaho) in 1973. This provision allowed individual health care providers and institutions such as hospitals to refuse to provide abortion and sterilization services, based on moral or religious convictions. Most states adopted their own “conscience clause” laws by 1978. Conscience clauses are a terrible idea that encourage arbitrary professional misconduct. It is an example of how morally-based action can lead to unethical conduct….People who voluntarily undertake the duties of a job should either be prepared to fulfill those duties, take the consequences of not doing so, or not take the job in the first place.That is the ethical duty that one accepts when one agrees to do a job. “

President Trump doesn’t do ethics, and not being a deep thinker,  inconsistencies of principle don’t resister on him. The reason for requiring health care workers to perform their jobs regardless of whether some portion of it clashes with their religious beliefs, moral conviction, political passions or gag reflex is the same whether a doctor objects to abortions, a baker doesn’t approve of gay marriage , a restaurant owner doesn’t want to serve blacks, Hispanics, or Republicans, or an NFL football player is offended by the National Anthem. Society doesn’t work any other way. The religious freedom dodge easily turns into a cover for bigotry, harassment and oppression.

Nothing in the Constitution says that citizens have the right to hurt people when they practice their religion, or defy our laws, or refuse to perform the duties of their professions or employment while still getting paid because they cite religious conscience.

2. I Told You Not To Look Under That Rock! Dept. For some reason, I broke my own rule and skimmed a Paul Krugman column. What was I thinking? What is so digsuting about Krugman is his intellectual dishonesty, as he writes down to his readers using rhetorical tricks, rationalizations and lazy arguments that are 90% political bias and 10% substance at best. Here was the sentence that exploded my head,  stopped me from reading, as Krugman twisted reality to hold Republicans responsible for the government shutdown that was 100% caused by Senate Democrats blocking the continuing resolution to keep the government open:

“Protecting the Dreamers is, by the way, enormously popular, even among Republicans, who oppose deporting them by a huge margin. So it’s not as if the G.O.P. would be giving up a lot.”

So, as long as a provision is popular with its base, a party isn’t “giving up a lot” by supporting it—regardless of whether it is responsible, fair, smart, principled, or in the best interest of the country. Got it, Paul. This is the lowest common denominator theory of democracy being peddled to New York Times reader by its Nobel Prize-winning columnist: legislation by poll. Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society, Workplace

A “Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men” Ethics Quiz: The Bitter Propane Dealer

A Skowhegan, Maine Trump voter.

A Skowhegan, Maine Trump voter.

The quiz itself has little to do with the fact that Michael Turner is the kind of bad American, bad neighbor, bad community member and  jerk who makes Ebenezer Scrooge seem like a mensch, but ponder on his conduct anyway.  If you are one of the residents in Skowhegan, Maine   and you call Turner LP Gas in Skowhegan, Maine to buy propane to heat your home, you get this message from the owner:

“If you voted for Donald Trump for president, I will no longer be delivering your gas. Please find someone else.”

No, it’s not a hate crime, it’s just hate. It gets cold in Maine, and Skowhegan, like the rest of the state, has a lot of poor people among it’s 8500 or so residents. It also has many who are elderly and poor, for whom having to find another propane supplier may be not just inconvenient, but life-threatening. This is why we have public accommodation laws: To protect us, especially the vulnerable among us, from bigots and bullies like Michael Turner.

He is no different in his lack of decency and the void of ethical values in his soul than the racists who refused to allow black citizens to frequent their establishments before the Civil Rights Act, bridal shop owners who won’t sell wedding dresses to same-sex couples, and the innkeepers who turned away a pregnant woman and her husband long ago, on a night we celebrate soon.

Ethics Alarms has discussed this ugly phenomenon many times. The Bush administration tried to validate it by approving the so called “workers’ right of conscience, ” that permitted a wide variety of health care workers to refuse to administer treatments they found morally repugnant. President Obama, to his credit, restricted that wide-open door to division and bigotry, then allowed the rest of his years in office to exacerbate societal schisms to the point that we have large numbers of a political party trying to overturn a legal election while calling  Americans who dared to vote differently than they did racists, sexists and fascists.

A recent Ethics Alarms post titled, “Americans: End This Slippery Slope Now, Before It’s Too Late,” about a Washington, D.C. restaurant that publicly apologized for letting an alt-right group to eat there, asked,

Are all groups, families and individuals now going to be required to declare their political and ideological positions before being allowed to order a lasagna? What is an acceptable group? If there is a protest over a Black Lives Matter dinner,  will Maggiano’s apologize? If Mike Pence and his family eats there and the “Hamilton” cast protests, does that mean they will refuse to serve cannoli members of the Trump administration? Despite the fact that the protests came from progressives, the attack on the restaurant is totalitarian in substance.  What is being commanded is conformity of thought.

Ah, but the persecutors are the good guys, don’t you understand? They know they are right, so they can rationalize hurting anyone who isn’t like them. Michael Turner is this breed of citizen. I must admit, when I warned that electing Donald Trump would turn the U.S. into a nation of assholes, I didn’t anticipate that it would be assholes like Michael Turner.

There’s no quiz on this topic, for it is settled ethics that his practice of punishing neighbors for their political views stinks. No, the quiz involves the conduct of Turner’s customers:

Today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is this…

If Turner required customers to state that they voted against Donald Trump in order to buy propane from him, would it be unethical for Trump voters to lie?

Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes, Rights, U.S. Society

Religious Tolerance Ethics: Con

Muslim cab drivers in Manhattan, as well as some other cabbies of discriminating moral tastes, think that they ought to have  the right to veto the placing of advertising on the tops of their cabs that they consider objectionable, notably ads for strip clubs.  Good luck with that, and I am being sarcastic.

The owners of taxi medallions who lease the medallions to drivers, according to Taxi and Limousine Commission rules, now get to decide what advertising to sell for the roofs of their cabs. It’s a privilege they pay for, since the medallions cost $600,000 or more. The cabbies, however, especially those who own their vehicles but still lease the medallions from the cab companies, want the rules to change so that a cabbie wouldn’t have to drive under the image of a professional “girl gone wild.”

The medallion owners are strongly opposed to any change, arguing that they have to cover the costs and liabilities for the cabs, so they should be able to sell any legal advertising, including for strip clubs. And they are 100% right. Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Gender and Sex, Religion and Philosophy

What Do you Call A Newspaper That Defends Outrageous Journalistic Practices? How About “Di Tzeitung”?

If Di Tzeitung had covered the Civil War

If I could pronounce it, the Brooklyn-based Hasidic newspaper Di Tzeitung would be useful shorthand  for “shamelessly using rationalizations to defend indefensible conduct.”

Last week, the newspaper ran the now-familiar photo of President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and others in the White House Situation Room, except that in Di Tzeitung’s version, Clinton  and the only other woman present, Director for Counter-terrorism Audrey Tomason, had magically vanished. Di Tzeitung had airbrushed them out, Politburo-style.

Of course, publishing the photo of a historic news event and altering it to convey misleading or false information (in this case, “Hillary wasn’t there”) is a substantial and wide-ranging violation of core journalism ethics, a breach of the reader’s trust, unfair, dishonest, misleading, incompetent and disrespectful. The altered photo was alternately condemned and mocked all over the media and blogosphere. Yet Di Tzeitung is largely unapologetic, and made it clear that it would do the same thing again if the opportunity arose. In a prepared statement, the editors explained why they did nothing “wrong”…well, almost nothing…challenging the Olympic record for rationalization by a news organization along the way: Continue reading


Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Ethics Hero: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer

There is hope for Arizona yet...

Earlier, I wrote about a bill passed by the Arizona legislature that would broadly allow religious practices and beliefs to trump professional obligations, ethics codes and discipline. The bill, SB 1288, directed in part:

A. Government shall not deny, suspend or revoke a professional or occupational license, certificate or registration based on a person’s exercise of religion.

B. Government shall not deny, suspend or revoke a professional or occupational license, certificate or registration based on a person’s refusal to affirm a statement that is contrary to the person’s sincerely held moral or religious beliefs, regardless of whether those beliefs are specifically espoused by a recognized church or religious body…

C. A person’s exercise of religion is not unprofessional conduct.

It was widely assumed, including by me, that Republican governor Jan Brewer would sign this stunningly awful bill into a law which would allow any practice that could be called “religious” to be immune from community, cultural and professional norms of right and wrong unless they were explicitly illegal. She did not. She vetoed it, an act of responsible leadership and political courage.

You can read her veto letter here.


Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, Workplace

Arizona’s Anti-Ethical Free Exercise of Religion Bill

While I was worrying about the unethical nature of so-called “conscience clauses,” which allow certain professionals, like pharmacists, withhold their services when they clash with the professional’s religious convictions, the Arizona legislature was cooking up something unimaginably worse. Last week the Arizona House of Representatives passed and sent to the Governor Brewer to sign into law SB 1288, a mind-blowing bill prohibiting the denial of occupational licenses or positions on public bodies because of an individual’s exercise of religion.

The soon-to-be-law states:

A. Government shall not deny, suspend or revoke a professional or occupational license, certificate or registration based on a person’s exercise of religion.

B. Government shall not deny, suspend or revoke a professional or occupational license, certificate or registration based on a person’s refusal to affirm a statement that is contrary to the person’s sincerely held moral or religious beliefs, regardless of whether those beliefs are specifically espoused by a recognized church or religious body… Continue reading


Filed under Bioethics, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society, Workplace

Comment of the Day:”Yes Julea,You Have A Right To Your Beliefs; You Just Don’t Have A Right…”

An Ethics Alarms heartfelt thank you and “I owe you one!” to Ethics Sage, for cutting to the other core ethical point about what was wrong with Julea Ward’s refusal to counsel a gay student, and why she should have been dismissed from the university course as a consequence. It wasn’t just failure of responsibility, which my post was fixated on, but also failure of caring, compassion, and our shared duty as human beings to help each other even if our religion encourages us to regard those human beings as immoral.

Ethics Sage shows his handle ain’t just horn-blowin’ with this Comment of the Day, on the post “Yes Julea,You Have A Right To Your Beliefs; You Just Don’t Have A Right…”

“Julea Ward’s refusal to counsel a gay student is despicable on many levels. What if the student’s life had been threatened and he went to counseling to get some advice? How can anyone not act to help a person in that kind of situation or others we can think of that may or may not have anything to do with being gay? By refusing to counsel the gay student, Ward failed miserably not only to meet the requirements of the course but to act as a human being with compassion for another.”


Filed under Comment of the Day, Health and Medicine, Love, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society