Right of Conscience Affirmed

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Conscience Regulations: A Christmas Gift We’ll Have to Fight to Keep

It is obvious that no one should be forced to have an abortion, but just as clear is that no one in the medical profession should be forced to perform an abortion in violation of their conscience.

The Bush administration on Thursday issued a rule that expands protections for health care workers who elect not to offer or participate in certain procedures, such as abortion, because of moral objections, the AP/Denver Post reports (Freking, AP/Denver Post, 12/18). Under the new “right of conscience” rule, any worker with a “reasonable” connection to the delivery of health care — including employees who clean equipment — can refuse to take part in services such as abortion, dispensing birth control drugs and other forms of contraception, or offering advice about such services.

These regulations will enforce three statutes-the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments that are already on the books that protect health care providers’ right of conscience. They will ensure that, instead of being overlooked, these conscience protection statues will be strongly enforced by the government in the same manner as our other civil rights laws.

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said, “Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience” (Rosetta/May, Salt Lake Tribune, 12/18).

In our country and across the world, incidents of  religious oppression have continued to be an issue in the health care industry as the freedom to obtain controversial medical procedures has often superseded religious views of doctors and medical staff whose personal beliefs preclude them from participating in such procedures.   Our health care providers have a right to practice good medicine according to their conscience.

Thank you to the Bush administration and Mike Leavitt for taking a stand and providing verification of the right to conscientiously refrain from objectionable mandates.

This gift does not come without a price.  Already the negative rhetoric and opposition to the rule is mounting.  Planned Parenthood calls the move “an attack on women” and mere “political games.”  Speculation as to how long it will remain in force once President Elect Obama takes office is yet to be seen.   Religious freedom is never just political games.  It’s a freedom worth the fight.

—Beetle Blogger

It’s not right to force others to act in a way that is contrary to their beliefs, yet in many countries, including ours, this has happened and continues to happen.   This worldwide list of incidents of conscientious repression was compiled by  Consciencelaws.org

Repression List

State of Victoria, Australia demands referral, performance of abortions
Melbourne, Australia (August, 2008)

Oxford Division Motion for British Medical Association
United Kingdom (July, 2008)

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists continues attack on freedom of conscience
USA (November, 2007)

Assisted suicide bills require objectors to facilitate assisted suicide
Wisconsin, USA (April, 2007)

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Demands Compulsory Referral
USA (August, 2005)

Philippines Government launches attack on freedom of conscience
Philippines, (April, 2005)

Draft Code of Ethics for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians – Ontario College of Pharmacists
Ontario, Canada (March-September, 2005)

Missouri Senate Bill 458 Threatens Pharmacists
Missouri, USA (February, 2005)

New Jersey Senators Attack Freedom of Conscience for Pharmacists
New Jersey, USA (January, 2005)

‘Pro-choice’ groups attack freedom to choose
NARAL, NOW and Planned Parenthood: USA (November, 2004)

Attack on freedom of conscience in US House of Representatives
Congressional Record: November 20, 2004 (House)

South African nurse denied position
Vereeniging (Gauteng Dept. of Health: Kopanong Hospital) South Africa (2004)

Medical Student Failed
University of Manitoba, 2003-2004

Ambulance Attendant Fired
Elmhurst, Illinois, USA 2004

Police Used to Intimidate Objecting Pharmacist
Menomonie, Wisconsin, USA 2002

Alberta Pharmacist Vindicated for Pro-Life Stand
Alberta, Canada (November, 2003)

Testimony of Beth LaChance, RN Re: Wisconsin Assembly Bill 67
Wisconsin, U.S.A. (October, 2003)

Testimony of Pharmacist Grosskreuz Re: Wisconsin Assembly Bill 63
Wisconsin, USA (March, 2003)

Testimony of Pharmacist Klubertanz Re: Wisconsin Senate Bill 21
Wisconsin, USA (March, 2003)

The Campaign to Force Hospitals to Provide Abortion
United States (2002-2003)

Pharmacy colleges quash conscientious objection
Canada (October, 2002)

Traumatised Health Care Professionals Forced to Take Part in Abortion Procedures
South Africa (June, 2002)

Doctor’s faith under scrutiny: Barrie physician won’t offer the pill, could lose his licence
Barrie, Ontario, Canada (February, 2002)

Oregon Health Department Nurse Loses Job to Pro-Life Beliefs
Salem, Oregon, USA (January, 2002)

Question of Conscience
United Kingdom (1973-2001)

Testimony from the Gynaecological-Obstetrical Frontline
Europe (1968-2001)

Do it anyway: Canadian workers are being compelled to violate their own beliefs
Canada (2001)

More DC Medics Say They Were Forced to Have Abortions
Washington, D.C. (2001)

Testimony of Wang Guoql
United States House of Representatives  (2001)

Christian Doctor Denied Employment
Glasgow, Scotland (October, 2000)

Access to Appointments: The Effect of Discrimination on Careers
Glasgow, Scotland (October, 2000)

Objectors to be Denied Diplomas
United Kingdom (October, 1999)

Foothills Hospital Now Forces Nurses To Participate In Genetic Terminations
Calgary, Alberta, Canada (1999)

Nurses At Foothills Hospital Rebel Over The Horrifying Results Of Late-Term ‘Genetic Terminations’
Calgary, Alberta, Canada (1999)

“Can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen”:
Law professor tells senators how he deals with conscientious objectors

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (1995-2000)

Student pressured to participate in abortion
Saskatchewan, Canada (1999)

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28 Comments

  1. December 23, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    If this law were legally applied to states with contradicting laws re fertilization treatments, it would be a step forward for traditional marriage. No mention of such treatments in the article, though.

  2. beetlebabee said,

    December 23, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Conscience laws are something I had never heard of before the administration made this move and brought the issue to the forefront of the family debate. It is a provision that ought to be a natural outgrowth of freedom of religion. If you are not harming others, it is reasonable that efforts to accommodate personal beliefs should be made in the world.

    We make efforts to include others who do not fit specific molds, for instance the disabled.

    If these conscience laws were adopted and touted by countries worldwide, the conflict over same sex marriage would be lessened.

    It is certainly applicable to not only abortion and euthanasia, but any place where religion and secularism meet.

  3. December 23, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Obviously, the conflict arises when you have monopolistic characteristics in a given economy–monopoly is the actual root of anti-discrimination laws, although paternalism has since overtaken the driver’s seat. It’s easy to make the argument that a person wanting an abortion should find a different doctor when you live in a metropolitan–or even reasonably sized–city. If you live in the sticks, like I did when I was growing up, there was one–and only one–doctor. Makes the policy decision less black-and-white, since state/federal laws have to be applied equally to all citizens of that state/country, not just to those who have an easy out.

  4. beetlebabee said,

    December 24, 2008 at 4:09 am

    Seriously,
    Even then, if it is a choice between convenience and freedom of religion, I’d go with freedom of religion every time.

  5. December 24, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    I agree, if the the choice is actually between “convenience” and freedom of religion. However, I would not call a religiously monopolized market (for example, a large rural region in which only one doctor is competent in providing fertilization treatment, and said doctor refuses to provide the treatment for GLBT individuals) simply “inconvenient.”

    I also prefer freedom of religion over restriction of religion–but I think it is very important that we on this side of the fence understand the secondary consequences–even if they’re uncomfortable–of our stance, so that we can show genuine empathy, instead of dismissive catch phrases, to those who disagree with us.

    In short, I said that, in cases of monopolized markets, the issue becomes more difficult, because you can’t just send someone to another provider. However, saying that the issue becomes more difficult is very different from saying that we should change our stance.

  6. beetlebabee said,

    December 26, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Seriously, The alternative is far too damaging to even consider. It is a matter of convenience over religion. Once you open that door to say that religious conviction can be sold for some level of hardship, it’s a slippery slope. I cannot imagine, and that is a strong phrase—- I cannot imagine asking someone to do something that was against their free will and religious right, much less demanding it by law.

    That may be a hard stance, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. No exceptions. It may not be pc, but there is empathy to be had on both sides of this issue. Have empathy yes, but do not make the mistake of equating empathy and compassion with giving up rights. Conversely, taking a stand against immoral laws and practices does not mean someone is being trite and dismissive, cold or cruel.

    Difficult circumstances are difficult by nature, and they happen. Taking the easy solution of forcing one side to cave for another is a game the law should not be involved in playing.

    Couch the issue in frivolities if you must to sugar coat the pill, but it is still a bitter one for someone. I would rather just come out and say it as it is and be straight to the point.

  7. December 26, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Why are we the only two writing here?

    As principled as it sounds, I seriously doubt it would take much effort for any of us to think back very far before we found many examples in our lives where we asked someone to something that was “against their free will and religious right, much less demanding it by law.” Sure, we may cover these requests with titles like “vote” and “ballot measure” and make that “someone” an impersonal word like “population,” but examples abound.

    It’s apparent that my previous comments failed to make my intention clear if you are under the impression I am suggesting softening our stance. Far from it. Rather, I am calling for a genuine effort for those on our side to think a little more critically about our own policy recommendations. The reason is simply that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch–no policy, irrespective of the benefits that may accrue, comes without costs. As I scan the writings of those who write in defense of the recent ballot measure in California, I see very little effort or acknowledgment of any weaknesses–logical, legal, or practical–in any of the opinions being tossed about. This is a scary and very unwise state of affairs.

    I’ve further failed to communicate my point if you think I’m calling for dousing difficult opinions in sugar before feeding them to the masses. What I am trying to say is that, for the most part, the opposing sides on this issue are not listening to anything the either side has to say–no willingness to admit that “they have a point” even though both sides have multiple good points. No one listens to people who don’t listen to others–that is one of the reasons this issue is so polarizing (certainly not the primary reason, but a contributing one). If we desire people to listen to us–especially those who oppose our cause or are sitting on the fence, acknowledging the costs of our stance is a must. Otherwise, we come across as uninformed, ill-willed, and fanatical. I do not believe that the death of one bad argument spells the death of an entire case, and neither do you (I’ve read enough of your posts to know that).

    In summary, you said you would just prefer to call it as it is. I say you don’t do that, and neither do I, and neither does anyone else out there writing on this subject. We call it how we see it. The distinction is a very important one, and everyone who writes on this topic needs to recognize that.

  8. beetlebabee said,

    December 26, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    I can’t speak for any other bloggers on this subject, but as a leaning-libertarian, I am unaware of any topic in recent memory where I would have supported government interference over free will and religious right.

    “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch–no policy, irrespective of the benefits that may accrue, comes without costs.”

    Agreed. There are costs in every situation, every element of life. One choice will automatically preclude another.

    The point of what I do is to clarify, not muddy waters with emotional baggage. There is too much of emotional interference in policy. That is the very thing that has gotten us into the position we are currently in, where feeling comes before logic and the long list of abuses above is evidence of this run rampant.

    That said, I’m unsure what else I can do in advocating my world view that would further the cause of peace other than *polite and respectful* rigorous discussion—which is always a priority.

    I take issue with the inference that my view as presented is uninformed, or carelessly “tossed about”, but I’m happy to be a fanatic if standing up in defense of such basics as marriage and family puts me among that class in the opposing view.

    I know full well that there will be some who never will agree. It is not my purpose to assuage feelings or to please people, it never has been. I will always try to be respectful and if you disagree, bring it on. I love a good discussion. If you have points I missed, have at it, let’s work through it, but please, I cannot tolerate touchy feely tyranny.

  9. James R. said,

    December 26, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    My mouth has been full of Christmas Turkey…sorry. I think the word here is “triangulation”. Having your pie and eating it too.

    Wikipedia:

    “Triangulation is the name given to the act of a political candidate presenting his or her ideology as being “above” and “between” the “left” and “right” sides (or “wings”) of a traditional (e.g. UK or US) democratic “political spectrum”. It involves adopting for oneself some of the ideas of one’s political opponent (or apparent opponent). The logic behind it is that it both takes credit for the opponent’s ideas, and insulates the triangulator from attacks on that particular issue. Opponents of triangulation who believe in a fundamental “left” and “right”, consider the dynamic a deviation from its “reality” and dismiss those that strive for it as whimsical.

    The problem is that the emotional attacks of the opposition are aimed at the breadbox, they ignore fact and go for the gut. They love to make you look hardened and scroogish, but it’s a tactic. You can’t walk the line expecting them to have the “aha” moment because you’re so empathetic.

  10. December 27, 2008 at 12:11 am

    I think we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot here. Let’s start over, okay? Hi Beetle Blogger. My name is Dead Seriously. Nice to meet you. I like your place, and think it’s really helpful and impacts things for the better. Some time you should come visit me at my place…I live at deadseriously.net. We’re on the same team, I assure you–although you’re more of a full-timer, and I’m a bit more eclectic.

    Since we’re friends now, I have to admit that I’m confused by some of the things that you wrote–possibly because that was because you and I were not friends yet, and you thought I was attacking you (hence the “I take issue with” kind of talk).

    I’m confused about where I seem to have called for touchy-feely advocacy. Where in any of my comments have I asked for group hugs and singing camp songs together? Sure, I called for empathy–but that is a big step from sympathy. Or am I justified in my confusion?

    Since we’re friends now, and you know I’m writing this with a big grin on my face, you’ll not take me too seriously when I say that, as an actual (as opposed to leaning) libertarian, I think you’re not trying very hard if you can’t come up with one single instance recently where you favored government intervention over private preferences. Here’s a hint: start with “gay marriage”. The fact that you chose one person’s rights over another’s (say, children’s over adults, or “yours” over “theirs”) does not mean you haven’t sacrificed someone’s rights/preferences/beliefs in the name of your own rights/beliefs/preferences. But again, keep in mind that I’m not attacking you here–just pointing out a bit of irony.

    “I take issue with the inference…” Did you think I was talking about your post? Nope. Not at all. At first, anyway. If you were one of those people, I assure you I wouldn’t be spending any time reading your blog. However, since you brought it up, I’ll take the bait:

    Whether you take issue or not is completely irrelevant, because “you” are not your target audience (unless you’re the most singularly narcissistic individual ever created…and I know you’re not, as I am). What matters is whether your target audience interprets it as uninformed or carelessly tossed about. When I read the original post, I thought it was interesting and thoughtful, so I commented (which I rarely do). You responded and said that (and I quote):

    “If you are not harming others, it is reasonable that efforts to accommodate personal beliefs should be made in the world.”

    The problem is, I’ve tried for the last…counting…3 (this makes 4) comments to point out, very simply, that in a MONOPOLY MARKET (which, btw, you’ve never addressed), that the policies we are supporting, ARE harming others. You may consider the harm unimportant or second-class in nature, but it is still there. And you keep arguing now that NO EXCEPTION should be made. Look, either your first quote–which is the one I’ve been working off from the get-go–is not your actual opinion, or you’re contradicting yourself.

    Help me understand. I’m not patronizing you.

  11. Troy said,

    December 27, 2008 at 12:33 am

    Deadly Seriously,
    I don’t pretend to be an economist (I recently listened to “The undercover economist” and really enjoyed it though). My opinion is that the type of situation that you describe where no competent medical professional that is willing to undertake a procedure is available within the circle of available locations does not exist in America. When my uncle had a serious heart condition, although he lives 140 miles from a major city, he was taken to first one city and then another where he got a heart transplant. With the price of gas at 4.00 a gallon with a car that gets 10 miles to the gallon means that the price of the trip is 14 x 4 x 2 (round trip) = $112. Medical procedures typically cost significantly more than this and the choice to have a child certainly entails more sacrifice than taking a day off and paying $112 in gas. I don’t believe that the monopoly argument is tenable in our day and age.

    On a related issue, rural living does have some disadvantages including the availability of services. My sister-in-law lives in a somewhat rural area (she lives on 10 acres) and goes shopping about once a month, has to take her son to school because the school bus won’t drive on her road (too rural!) and knows that the mean time for emergency service arrival (police, fire, ambulance) is rather high compared to metropolitan areas. That’s just the facts of life for her. It’s worth it to her to be able to have the land. Having to travel to services from rural locations is not unique to this situation and doesn’t warrant special considerations in my opinion.

    I think that Beetle’s argument that conscience trumps convenience is more relevant. Forcing someone to act against their conscience is more damaging to society than forcing people to find like minded individuals with which to acquire certain services. In a free market (which America tries to approximate), if there is a need, someone will try to fill it and “make a buck.”

  12. beetlebabee said,

    December 27, 2008 at 1:05 am

    Seriously,

    :-) Don’t let my debate terminology deter you unless it’s symbolized swearing. I have actually been to your site, thank you for the intro. We disagree on a few things, but we can be friends still.

    I thought I had addressed the monopoly argument already. It is a non issue. There is no price, no trade-off where forcing someone to perform an abortion or assisted suicide is acceptable to me. The balance of harms is incomparable. Whether there is a miniscule exception or no exception, it’s much rarer than mere convenience.

    Do you really disagree with this?

  13. December 27, 2008 at 3:40 am

    @ Everyone…
    please read (and then re-read) my comments before rebuking me. It will help tremendously.

    @ James R.
    I’m not sure if I agree or disagree with you. Intellectually, I think you’re right–there will be no “Aha!” moment for a vast majority of people chiming in here. However, my own experience begs to differ, as it has shown me that are many “Aha!” moments from the least expected of places. I have personally experienced many of them with people who I had considered to be among the most aggressive of opponents to this cause. Walking the line is difficult, but it is still necessary. We can’t afford the price of acting like fools when so many people–media, Jack Black, and some guy I met on the bus–are going to “go for the gut” at the first mistake, as you said. It’s much easier to avoid looking like a fool when we approach things diplomatically and empathetically than when we assume everything coming out of their mouths is foolish.

    @ Troy
    I said (waaaaay back in the beginning):
    “Obviously, the conflict arises when you have monopolistic characteristics in a given economy–monopoly is the actual root of anti-discrimination laws, although paternalism has since overtaken the driver’s seat.”

    In other words, you are correct, sir! There is not much relevance to a geographically monopolist health care market in the US anymore as an argument against discrimination anymore (however, monopolistic insurance companies raise a different question…but that’s a story for another day).

    However, whether you can find a town without a doctor or not is actually not the issue; the point is that this is one of the most cherished arguments among those who disagree with “us” here. (FYI: I put “us” in quotes because, unlike my new pal BB, I actually don’t know you yet, and don’t know if you’re truly one of “us.” No, I’m not being serious. Of course we’re friends.) As such, understanding the criticisms and basis of anti-discrimination laws–including the history of them–is highly relevant to any intelligent advocacy.

    “In a free market (which America tries to approximate), if there is a need, someone will try to fill it and “make a buck.””
    Only in a world where transaction costs are low and barriers to entry are non-existent. Monopoly=High barriers to entry–>America’s “market economy” doesn’t fit the bill here.

    @ BB
    What do we disagree on? I assume you’re referring to my preferences over vegetable juice and university athletics, correct?

    “I thought I had addressed the monopoly argument already. It is a non issue.”

    Now that’s EXACTLY what I’m talking about. You dismiss it so quickly that you ran right by my point–I know it’s a non-issue to you! Anyone who reads this right now knows it’s a non-issue to you. It’s a non-issue to me, too! But here’s the thing–legally speaking, it’s not a non-issue. Shouting over and over that something is a non-issue doesn’t make it a non-issue to other people. This is the whole point!! AAARRGHH!!! I’m much better now. Excuse me.

    What I am saying is this: Instead of working ourselves up into a frenzy of useless arguments about how the world should be, let’s work ourselves up into a frenzy of useful arguments about how to get the world where it should be. Doing that requires that we use arguments that are 1) true and 2) useful, not just 1) true.

    An example of this (true, but not useful): Screaming about Prop 8 supporters’ businesses being boycotted while we publish a campaign to boycott a chicken broth who took out an ad in a glbt mag. Oh. My. Soul.

    I must go to bed.

  14. December 27, 2008 at 3:41 am

    @ BB

    “Do you really disagree with this?”

    Again, it’s not about what I agree with or disagree with. It’s about people who haven’t made up their mind yet.

  15. beetlebabee said,

    December 27, 2008 at 6:14 am

    Seriously, our newly minted friendship has already weathered some sizable hurdles. Take a deep breath, it’s ok, put the keyboard down and sleep on it a bit… Communication can be a dance, the music is still playing, let’s go another round on the other side of a good nap.

    I think I’m starting to understand where you’re coming from on conscience laws, however, when I say that religious conviction should not be sold for convenience, how is that skipping by the issue? Isn’t the value of religious conviction exactly the heart of the issue? And isn’t going back to principles the first step in true change?

    Other things it seems we disagree on currently(besides sports and v8—I actually like v8…. but it has to be WITH sodium or it’s no good.) :

    I disagree with your take on the McCarthyism analogy (discussed on your blog) for instance, and I think that there are important distinctions between boycotting businesses and boycotting individuals that you’ve made the mistake of lumping together in the soup dust-up. Boycotting businesses who have publicly made a policy stance is one thing. That’s informed consumerism. Perfectly fine. Boycotting individuals at their place of employment is not for the purpose of taking a moral stand for informed consumerism, it is designed for distasteful intimidation and harassment.

    “let’s work ourselves up into a frenzy of useful arguments about how to get the world where it should be.”

    I agree that action is an important component of change. I’d like to hear your thoughts on that. Suggestions?

  16. December 27, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    @ James R

    Shortly after I hit “submit” last night, I realized that I completely disagree with your triangulation argument–not in the outcome sense, but in the motivation aspect. I have no intention of jumping out and attacking those with whom I discuss the issue–rather, I draw my motivation from my experience that honestly–complete, full disclosure, even when it’s uncomfortable or weakening to my argument–is the only correct way of dealing with people. If the end result appears like triangulation, then so be it, but it did not begin as such.

  17. December 27, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    @ BB

    Taking a deep breath is always a good idea. Now that I’ve slept on it, let’s go over a couple of things:

    Specifically, which part of my discussion of McCarthyism do you disagree with? Keep in mind, that I was not saying the blacklisting is a noble form of protest–I just argue that it’s inaccurate to call it McCarthyism. Please put your criticism in the context of my argument, not the context of whether or not the blacklisting is good or bad.

    Since we’re friends, I know that you don’t honestly think I failed to see a distinction between targeting a business and targeting an individual, because that would be a stupid thing for me to do, and I know you don’t have stupid friends…well, we all have a few, I suppose. But I digress…

    …the point is, you will be screaming into the wind at an audience of non one if you try to argue that there is a distinction between boycotting Swanson because some exec chose to support the GLBT agenda or boycotting a restaurant because the manager donated to Prop 8. I know there is a difference. You know there is a difference. But Mr. Fence Sitter sees only one thing: A group complaining about boycotts engaging in boycotts. It smacks of “sinking to their level,” or “if you can do it, so can we” no matter how righteously justified we might think we are. But guess what? We’re not righteously justified at all.

    I’m not going to judge a call for a boycott of chicken broth evil; I just think it’s stupid. However, I draw the line when you say it’s simply “informed consumerism” and that it’s “perfectly fine”. It’s UNinformed consumerism, because it’s based on a patently false premise. As an economist, we often say, “You can’t tax a company, you can only tax people.” In the same fashion, my friend BB, you cannot boycott a company. You can only boycott the individuals who work there. Even if your original motives are different, the end result is exactly the same: harm to people who had nothing to do with the situation. Collateral Damage, as I called in my post.

    Again, I repeat: You cannot boycott a company. You can only boycott individuals who work together under a certain roof. There is no difference between the two boycotts, except in motive, and no one cares about your underlying motives if you make people lose their jobs–or call for action that would cause such.

    What suggestions do I have? Beyond the basics of faith, hope, and charity? I think you need no suggestions for action from me–you’re very active. Moreover, I think you gave the best piece of advice (incidentally, it’s a phrase I’ve used copiously on my own site) above: Take a deep breath (before writing).

  18. beetlebabee said,

    December 27, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Seriously, I am completely uninterested in garnering popular support or understanding by hamstringing my efforts in order to seem nice. It is exactly this kind of posturing that gets the good guys all tangled in their stirrups.

    Those who care to know the difference between individual and business have either already looked into the difference or are reading and becoming informed.

    When a company entity chooses to take a stand, I also have the obligation to take a stand. Companies, governments and churches are the three major influences on public opinion. If you cannot address one third of those by action, you set yourself up for loss by default. I am not a large movement concerned with image, I am grass roots army. The grass roots can speak, can vote, can act and others will listen.

    No, my friend, doing nothing in the balance of this fight is far more costly than appearance.

  19. December 27, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Whoa Whoa Whoa….slow down! You asked me to take a deep breath…I will ask you to do the same. Why do you keep saying that I’m suggesting we should do nothing? Honestly!

    1. Don’t kid yourself: you are very interested in garnering popular support. You are singularly interested in garnering popular support. Please don’t deceive yourself, or anyone else. For our cause to move forward, it MUST have popular support. As far as the means of gaining that public support are concerned, you seem to be laboring under the belief that appearance and effectiveness are mutually exclusive. You know as well as I do that that is simply not true.

    Part of the problem here is that I think you’ve construed my arguments for as what James R above hinted–triangulation. I tried to nip that in the bud quickly, but maybe it didn’t come through. I am not asking anyone to “lighten up” on anything–for strategic purpose or otherwise. I am asking for a higher level of scrutiny and honesty in the tactics we adopt. To be fair, adopting higher levels of scrutiny and honesty may well result in a different tone of voice, but let’s not confuse causes and effects.

    2. If ignoring the fact that, in targeting businesses, we hurt individuals EVERY BIT AS MUCH as those who we decry helps you assuage your own conscience and sleep better at night, by all means, keep it up. I didn’t say the boycott of chicken broth is evil: I said it is stupid. If you can’t see the political irony and negative consequences of responding to an unfair and cruel boycotting strategy by doing something that results in the exact same thing (collateral damage)…then…wow. How can you claim to be doing “the right thing” if you knowingly engage in an attack that will hurt innocent bystanders?

    Go on with the chicken soup boycott if you must–but please don’t continue on in the belief that it is fundamentally different from what the other side is doing. The motive is different, but the end result is the same. I’ve always believed that the end NEVER justifies the means, and I believe that old adage is more relevant now than ever. I will fight for this cause to the end, and I will fight as hard or harder than anyone else. But I will not sacrifice principles of truth, honesty, and respect for those who disagree with me, and I will not ignore the secondary, unintended consequences of my actions. I would rather lose the war than lose my integrity and self-respect.

  20. Troy said,

    December 27, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    The goal of a boycott (or informed consumerism or whatever you want to call it) is to effect change. A business’ job is to make money. Many businesses cater to different groups in order to capture a niche market or increase market appeal. In some cases the result is good, in others it backfires against them.

    I think there are two situations under consideration here. In the first case a company makes a statement or does something in order to capture more business. People may boycott that business in order to let that business know that this decision hurts society or them personally to encourage them to change their policy. Your point is well taken that this action will almost certainly result in “collateral damage” which is to say that people who do not agree with the business decision will be part of the business and will be affected by the business’ decision. In addition, those who boycott the business will inadvertently hurt some people in the business because that business made a bad decision. Ultimately, however the boycott is directed to effect change and does so in the most effective way possible, namely to attack the basic purpose of the business.

    The other case is when a member of an organization does something to support a cause of some kind. A person’s “job” is not necessarily to make money, people have a multitude of reasons for doing what they do. Beetle certainly isn’t making money through this blog, for instance. An organization that the individual works for may be targeted for a boycott as a result of the person’s decision. The problem with this is that it can not affect a change. Under the law, the company can not fire the person for a personal decision that they made because of the discrimination laws of the 1960’s. Also the boycott does not directly strike at the issue which is to change the way the person feels or try to change the reason that the person made the decision to support the cause in the first place.

    Therefore the difference between the two cases is that in the first case, the boycott attacks the perceived problem directly (the business will not be able to make more money this way) while the second case is impotent and causes ONLY collateral damage.

  21. December 27, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    @ Troy,

    You’ve given an excellent explanation, and I really like it. But it doesn’t change the reality of your final paragraph (with a small addition): Both cause ONLY collateral damage. The only difference is that with one of them, you get to feel morally superior.

    Next topic, please?

  22. Troy said,

    December 27, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    We may have to agree to disagree here because an effective boycott of a business results in that business changing it’s policy and the removal of their support for the cause. That is not a collateral damage.

    There is no effective boycott against a person in my opinion since you can not boycott the reason the person made the decision to support the cause. I supported prop 8 because I feel it’s immoral to teach that same sex unions are equal to marriage in schools. Boycotting my employer will not change my feelings on that subject. Since you can not effect a change to remove my support, there is no effective boycott and the collateral damage only remains.

  23. beetlebabee said,

    December 27, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Unfortunately, your argument is flawed. Feeling morally superior is not the point and never was. I’ve noticed an interesting trend with you Seriously, that is that you seriously have a problem putting motives in people’s mouths.

    “Don’t kid yourself: you are very interested in garnering popular support. You are singularly interested in garnering popular support.”

    Setting up your straw man of dishonesty so you can knock it down does you no favors here. Public opinion matters not a whit to me. If I have a following here it is irrespective of my difficult positions. Were I to be the last man standing and my voice echoing on the breeze alone, what would it matter to you? Take your fight as you see fit, but please do not imagine motives to justify your choice of inaction.

    Troy, I think you hit the nail squarely on the head. It is not a question of ends justifying the means, it is exactly opposite, the reason behind it is the purpose of the action.

  24. Liberty Belle said,

    December 27, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    So seriously, on one side of your mouth you’re arguing that we ought to have conversation that is productive, not just right, and you offer no principled solution to the problem of who to support, yet when someone raises the argument that you can withdraw support of an entity that is ethically off course, well, you can’t do that either because that’s mean.

    Sounds to me like you’ve got your spurs caught in the stirrups buddy.

    Turn it around. Should you support and enable a business or organization that is morally bankrupt? Obviously no. Think this through a little further before mounting that high horse friend.

  25. Pearl said,

    December 27, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    I’ve been following this discussion thread from its inception and I have to say that I’m impressed with the calm and respectful manner in which this debate has occurred. However, in the end I just wanted to chime in and lend my simple support to Troy’s conclusions; they are spot-on and so clear and concise in their delivery. Thank you, Troy. Beetle Blogger, you have also made very valid arguments to support this opinion. Thank you for the post. It would be very wrong for professionals to be forced to provide services against their religious beliefs; against their conscience. I am grateful the Bush administration has bestowed this parting gift on professionals throughout our country and I agree that we will have to fight to keep it. And Dead Seriously, I’m glad you are not going to stop fighting for traditional marriage and family. We all tend to express ourselves differently and we’re all learning as we go; but in the end, marriage and family and especially the children need as many of us as are willing to defend what’s right for the future security and success of our society.

  26. James R. said,

    December 27, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    I find it interesting that the hue and cry of empathy and tolerance morphs into “stupid”. I don’t think it’s a wise tactic to assume that everything coming out of anyone’s mouths is foolish either.

    The point made earlier about monopolies as an exception to convenience laws in this day and age has merit, and the idea that benefits must be weighed against costs is huge for me, especially since the pendulum has swung so fiercely against religion. There’s no surprise in where these policies lead. In the UK, they have gone to such an extreme that they believe religion is fine, but it stops at the chapel door. You have very few protected expressions of faith outside a physical church remaining in that country. This is a reality that is coming for us if we don’t stand and defend against arguments of convenience.

    If you’re against boycotting and against conscience laws for protecting freedom of religion, because there is a remote possibility of harm to someone, somewhere, no matter how small ——-if all incidental casualties are anathema, to be avoided at all costs in order to maintain our integrity, then we will all become the casualties of inaction.

    I think that is an unwise policy. I sat on the fence a bit on the boycott issue before, but this discussion has clarified it for me. I think the triangulation angle has more in common with your view than you may want to admit, dead seriously. It’s ok to be wrong or to adjust your position as we work things through. As you say, we’re all on the same side here.

  27. December 28, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Wow. I take the day off to play with my kids, come back, and see that I’ve been sent to my room without supper, so to speak. Called dishonest, told that I have my stirrups messed up, that I need to “think things through”, that I have a serious problem, and that I believe several things I don’t believe. Seriously, you guys are the best.

    The only remaining question is whether or not to reply to your criticisms. Part of me wants to not respond, because if you read my response in the same light as you (clearly) read the earlier ones, you’ll just misconstrue what I write in the same fashion. Part of me wants to respond, because I think you’re all waaaay misunderstanding me, and I hate being misunderstood as much as anyone does. This would be a dilemma, but I’m a glutton for punishment.

    I’m only going to respond the latest round of “you are not right” statements, and I’ll hope that the downward-spiraling civility will either gain serious speed so that it becomes entertaining or that it will improve quickly. Preferably the latter.
    Not in any order:

    1. The fact that a boycott is effective does not mean there is no collateral damage.

    The only possible way you can run a boycott without collateral damage is to boycott a single individual who has no employees and no clients. There has never been a boycott in the history of the world that did not have collateral damage, whether it be short or long term. Trade embargoes on Cuba are an excellent analogy for boycotting a business. The target is the government, has a history of human rights violations (apparently). Who is suffering from the boycott? The government? Not hardly. Only people. Again, you can levy a tax on a business, but that tax is paid out of the owner’s revenues, which also pay the wages of the workers. The employees, in the end, pay the tax. Boycotts work in identical fashion–even my 3 year old understands this. There is no outcome-based difference between targeting individuals or targeting businesses: individuals suffer in both cases.

    2. I do not think all boycotts are evil. I think some boycotts are evil. I think most boycotts are useless, and many are counterproductive. (Think about “Day without a Gay”) I think the boycotts on LDS/Prop8-supporting businesses are evil because of their motive seems to be to hurt people. I do not think Prop 8 supporters boycotting chicken broth is evil, because the it does not seem to to motivated by hurting people. The differences in motive, however, don’t change the fact that the outcome, however, is the same: employees being hurt because of their bosses’ decisions.

    I think that the boycott of chicken broth is counterproductive, because, even if you don’t want to admit it, if the boycott has any impact (seriously…how much chicken broth do you guys buy, anyway?), then you will have hurt un-related employees every bit as much as gay protesters outside El Coyote hurt the employees there. If that happens, you have lost any claim to any form of moral high ground that you had. Your motive or your target does not make an ounce of difference to people who jut lost their job.

    3. “If you’re against boycotting and against conscience laws for protecting freedom of religion…”

    Holy cow. Let’s take them one at a time: I’m against boycotting in ignorance of who is going to be impacted by the boycott. If the cost of the boycott (employees being laid off, etc…) outweigh the benefits of the the boycott (effecting social change), then yes, I’m against it. Aren’t you? But if the benefits outweigh the costs, then sign me up.

    All I have been trying to say–from the start–is that costs must be considered. In my opinion, based on your comments, those of you who are upset at me are not considering the full measure of the costs of this boycott. Maybe you are. I don’t think you are. We can disagree about this. But if you insist on moving forward, acting as if there is no cost, then I wish you luck, but will not join you in the picket line until I’ve measured them myself.

    Now, as to me not supporting laws protecting freedom of religion/conscience…Huh? Me = Love them kind of laws. Me = Wish we had more of them. I am not a big fan of simply assuming that those laws do not have harmful effects. The fact is, they do. I still support them, because the benefits far outweigh the costs. But saying that the costs don’t exist? That’s just silly, and it makes us look ignorant, which is exactly how the other side tries to portray us. I say that we should stop playing into that trap.

    Finally, I will respond to Liberty Belle, because she was the meanest and most condescending (actually, BB was…but since she and I are good friends, I know she didn’t mean it. LB never even introduced herself to me before making me feel bad.)

    “…you offer no principled solution to the problem of who to support…”

    I was never asked to. Sure, BB asked what I suggest a while earlier, but that was more generally “what should our side do” and not “who should we no boycott.” But if you would like an answer, okay. I think you should support whoever you think is providing the best mix of service and price. If politics enter that mix, so be it. If you want to personally boycott a store, do it. I “boycott” Carl’s Jr. because I hate sauce. I “boycott” Jack Black movies (sadly) because I hate how he portrayed my Savior. But I do these things in my private life. Calling for a public boycott is different because I think it turns me into a hypocrite if I decry others who boycott people I love.

    “…well, you can’t do that either because that’s mean.”

    No, that’s not what I said. What I said is that you can’t do that either and pretend that it’s not mean. If mean wins, be mean. Fine. I’m mean all the time–and sometimes it’s justified. I just don’t think you should pretend that you’re being nice and not hurting anyone. By ignoring costs and claiming that you’re targeting “businesses” instead of “individuals” you do exactly that.

    “Sounds to me like you’ve got your spurs caught in the stirrups buddy…Think this through a little further before mounting that high horse friend.”

    Do you have any idea how bad you make yourself look when you write things like that? Go home. Learn a little respect for people you don’t know. Think about how silly it is to tell people they’re stupid, when you might not be the sharpest tack around. Think about how often in life we are sure other people haven’t thought things through, only to realize that we were missing the boat the whole time. Come back. Keep writing.

  28. James R. said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:07 am

    This thread is Seriously funny. Seriously bizarre and Seriously flawed, all in one. Seriously.


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