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December 08, 2005

My Morning After Pill

Did you notice that this “holiday season” we have been deluged with people who believe that any action that restricts their right to shove their religion down your throat is an act of bigotry. For example, according to Associated Press writer Jim Shur:

Walgreen Co. engaged in religious discrimination by “effectively firing” three Illinois pharmacists who refused to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception, a public-interest group alleged Wednesday.

The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, said it had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The group said the pharmacists were put on unpaid leave Nov. 28 because the drug store chain said they violated a state rule mandating that such prescriptions be filled.

“Since the pharmacists believe that human life begins at conception, they conclude that dispensing such drugs would require them to participate in the moral equivalent of abortion,” the Washington-based group said in a statement.

“I knew when these drugs came out I would never be able to dispense them,” pharmacist John Menges, who worked in a Walgreens store in Collinsville until being placed on leave, told The Associated Press.

Frank Manion of the ACLJ declined to release a copy of the complaint, saying such matters routinely are confidential.

The local EEOC office did not immediately return messages left seeking comment.

The Illinois rule – imposed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich in April – requires Illinois pharmacies that sell contraceptives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fill prescriptions for emergency birth control. Pharmacies that do not fill prescriptions for any type of contraception are not required to follow the rule.

“It is strictly stated in state law that pharmacists must fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptions,” said Tiffani Bruce, a spokeswoman for Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen. “Anyone who takes issue with this law needs to address it with the state or the governor.”

The three pharmacists – identified by the group as Menges, Richard Quayle and Carol Muzzarelli – were put on unpaid leave for refusing on religious and moral grounds to fill prescriptions for the morning-after pill. A fourth pharmacist who was put on leave returned to work Monday after agreeing in writing to follow the state rule.

Manion called a state or federal lawsuit likely if the company doesn’t reinstate the pharmacists. “It’s important that a stand be taken here,” he said.

Bruce said the three pharmacists have declined to accept the chain’s offer to find them work in Missouri, which has no such rule.

Several lawsuits on behalf of pharmacists and pharmacy owners have been filed in opposition to the rule, many by Manion’s group and Americans United for Life, a Chicago-based public interest law firm.

I happen to believe that a lawsuit can be a means of free expression, so there’s no “but” in my argument, although I do think these folks are threatening the wrong people. I do wonder how far this line of thinking can go.

For example, if you are a clerk who is opposed to the selling birth control of any sort – and some zealots are – does that mean that you don’t have to ring up somebody’s order if it contains condoms or spermicidal cream? If you’re a devout Jehovah’s Witness or a follower of a similar philosophy, should you be able to refuse to ring up Halloween products? And if it’s okay for a member of a Christian sect to do so, then is it okay if you’re a Wiccan who’s tired of how witches have been defamed?

Most important – because it’s most pervasive right now – if you want to incorporate all Americans in your year end cheer by saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” can these clowns defame you as anti-Christian? I’m not specifically asking this question of Bill O’Reilly, but after his attack on Jon Stewart I am making note of this.

So I think we need a litmus test. Therefore, as I often to, I turn to Jeff Foxworthy for my inspiration. He’s the perfector of the modern-day sociological litmus, with the caveat that he (unlike me) is trying to be funny. Yes, friends, it’s time for

You Just MIGHT Be A Bigot If…

• you think the phrase “Happy Holidays” is anti-Christian.

• you take the phrase “separation of church and state” as an assault on your religious freedom.

• you think America is a Christian nation.

• you think “America” only refers to the United States and not, say, Haiti.

• you think establishing a theocracy in Iraq means Iraq is becoming a democracy.

• you think establishing a theocracy in the United States means we are maintaining a democracy.

• you think all other religions are wrong.

• you believe Pagans are Satanic.

• you get pissed every time somebody notes how many Christmas “traditions” were ripped off from the Pagans.

• you believe atheists are akin to child molesters.

• you are straight and you think same sex marriage is in any way your business.

• you think marriage is in any way the government’s business.

• you think the Crusades were a good thing and you can’t understand why Moslems and Jews are so pissy about it.

• you think that attacking bigotry is the same as attacking your religion.

Give yourself one point for every answer with which you agree. If you come up with a score of “1” or higher, well, you just MIGHT be a bigot.

Posted by Mike Gold at December 8, 2005 03:46 PM

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I think that deep inside we're all bigots. I think the true measure of our humanity is the degree to which we recognize and rise above our personal bigotry.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at December 8, 2005 09:57 PM

I think you're missing an important point here, Mike. The morning-after pill is seen by fetus rights advocates as an instrument of murder. For a pharmacist who believes that abortion is murder, to sell the morning-after pill is about the same as Wal-Mart selling bullets was to Michael Moore.

Am I wrong to suspect, Mike, that you are a Michael Moore fan? Yup, I thought so... :-)

Posted by: Marilyn Ferdinand at December 12, 2005 10:58 PM

We should re-consider the limits of moral liability. Speaking for myself alone, it offends me that ugly people have sex, and I'd like my local pharmacist to refuse to dispense Viagra to some of the trolls who want it so I don't have to think about it. And poor people who want to use my tax money to extend their lives with blood pressure medication? No way. If God wants them to die and shows his will by giving them a disease, then why should some pill-pusher stand in the way? Or, failing that, a pharmacist who doesn't wish to dispense prescribed medication should find another career path.

Posted by: Martha Thomases at December 13, 2005 09:46 AM

Should you be able to refuse to ring up...

Yes, you should be able to refuse to do something asked by your employer that you find morally repugnant. Then, that employer has the right to fire your ass. If you knew ahead of time that this morally repugnant task was in the job description, you deserve no compensation for said firing. If the task is a new duty, or some other change (like a new drug hits the market) then I'd hope the employee and employer could come to an amicable agreement. But, either way, an employee is always free to refuse to do work, and the employer should be free to fire them.

Posted by: Londo at December 13, 2005 12:30 PM

I realize that these people consider the morning after pill to be baby bullets. However, the morning after pill has been approved by the FDA, and selling them is part of their job. If it offends their morality, they should quit their job. I'm opposed to the death penalty so I don't apply for those executioner gigs (although I am a Bud Cort fan). And, as Londo sez, if these folks don't do their job, they should ask for a different gig. Or get their asses fired.

Marilyn, I enjoy most of Michael Moore's work and I believe him to be an excellent and an entertaining advocate. And I don't understand why the NRA thinks Moore is anti-gun; hell, he's a member. But, as you know, having worked for Abbie Hoffman all those years I know there is a certain tunnelvision that one acquires in the job.

Martha, you know, you're no longer obligated to actually WATCH ugly people have sex.

Posted by: Mike Gold at December 13, 2005 12:50 PM

I agree that the pharmacists should not keep a job whose requirements they cannot perform. I don't condemn them for their moral stand, however. They should stand outside the pharmacy and protest if they want, without their little white coats.

As to Michael Moore, he's an entertaining cuss, I suppose. I find his cheap shots to be not only repugnant (the pet or meat lady was an object of ridicule to him), but also damn confusing. Why is he ambushing Dick Clark because someone got shot? Why does he blame Lockheed for Columbine? This guy just doesn't make any sense!

Posted by: Marilyn Ferdinand at December 13, 2005 01:34 PM

Ambushing Dick Clark is pretty cool, as far as I'm concerned. A good guy I've worked with (who shall remain nameless because I didn't ask him for permission) had in a previous professional incarnation worked for Dick Clark and has told me sundry stories that paint America's oldest teenager as one of America's greatest living scumbags.

And let's face it: we've always suspected that.

Posted by: Mike Gold at December 13, 2005 05:15 PM

That may be, but he had nothing to do with that woman's brother getting shot. This is what drives me crazy about Moore. He tries to make causal links that don't exist because he wants you to condemn big business and the military. There are plenty of real reasons and stories out there. Why weaken your case by shooting into the air?

Posted by: Marilyn Ferdinand at December 13, 2005 06:42 PM

Hmmm. I may be defending Moore more than I'd like to, but like I said, being a passionate political or social advocate does promote a certain tunnelvision. That's not a left thing or a right thing, it comes with the job.

In this type of situation, there's the problem with turning out material that will motivate (note, I didn't say educate) the uncommitted and the undercommitted. Folks intimate with the issue or already committed one way or the other might see better targets or feel their ox is being gored unfairly, but those people closer to the fence are more likely to be motivated -- again, one way or the othe.

Dialectics, as Marx said. And, yes, that would be Karlo.

But it's also guys like Moore who have the guts and the tits-to-the-wind attitude that would motivate them to start a movie with a crystal clear, full length look at George W. Bush at the moment of the worst American crisis since the Cuban missile thingy and show, in a time of war, the president as the dolt he is -- and then wind up that same movie by personally interviewing a bunch of members of Congress to ask them if the war is so important and so moral why their kids haven't enlisted.

One gets the feeling that Moore is better than the weaker moments of his movies because the strongest moments are so spot-on. That's probably right.

Posted by: Mike Gold at December 13, 2005 09:37 PM

I accept Moore's films as the agitprop for the left that they are. He knows how to reach his audience, and that he gave the Shrub some worried moments filled me with joy. He fought the right wing propaganda machine on its own ground and made some real gains. But it really galled me that he won an Oscar for best documentary because he doesn't make documentaries--a form I passionately love. He doesn't even make good films from a purely cinematic standpoint, and he's sneaky. One of the creators of SOUTH PARK complained that Moore wanted them to illustrate the history of the United States in F9/11, and when they refused, juxtaposed an interview with them with his SOUTH PARK knock-off, a clearly deceptive tactic to appeal to S.P. fans who don't really care about politics.

You're right, Mike, he's an effective advocate. But I don't like fraud on the left any more than I do on the right.

Posted by: Marilyn Ferdinand at December 13, 2005 10:30 PM

re: "a clearly deceptive tactic to appeal to S.P. fans who don't really care about politics."

You're, ah, joking...right? Have you ever watched South Park? Beneath the thin veneer of fart jokes, South Park is riddled with political and social messages, usually delivered with a sledge hammer. Compared to Trey Parker, Michael Moore is the soul of unbiased commentary.

And do you honestly think that anyone went to see F9/11 for the chance to see the South Park creators? I must have missed the ads that proclaimed, "If you like South Park, you'll love F9/11!"

I enjoy both South Park and Michael Moore -- and somehow managed to totally avoid being offended or disappointed by the latter's treatment of the former.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at December 15, 2005 12:23 PM

"...do you honestly think that anyone went to see F9/11 for the chance to see the South Park creators?"

Did I say that? I swear people can't read anymore. I said that Michael Moore is sneaky and used the pseudo "South Park" history segment as an example of that. As to the political agenda of South Park, yes, it is definitely there, but I'm willing to bet that a lot of younger viewers don't tune in for that but rather for the irreverence. They don't even realize that it's as political as it is because they've given up on the process entirely and just like a show that says, "screw all of you."

Posted by: Marilyn Ferdinand at December 15, 2005 10:48 PM

For kids, that's a start. It's a damn good start. Each generation of pre-adolescents have had their irreverent influences -- the original Mad Magazine, Rocky and Bullwinkel, George Carlin and Richard Prior, The Simpsons, South Park. Certainly not everybody develops a political perspective from these influences, but for many it provides a great beginning.

I love South Park. I want to grow up to be just like them.

Posted by: Mike Gold at December 15, 2005 10:58 PM


re: "Did I say that? I swear people can't read anymore."

What you actually said was: "...juxtaposed an interview with them with his SOUTH PARK knock-off, a clearly deceptive tactic to appeal to S.P. fans who don't really care about politics."

I see two possible interpretations of this statement:

1. Moore deceived (the verb based on the same root as "deceptive") people into theaters with the promise of South Park-related material.

2. Moore somehow deceived "S.P. fans" once they were in the theaters, fans who apparently went to see the movie for some other non-political reason (since they "...don't care about politics.")

In the former case, I would infer that the reason for the deception was to "appeal" to a market segment that might otherwise spend their movie dollars elsewhere. That's an argument that I can understand, although I find it highly unlikely (and apparently you deny that this would be a reasonable inference anyway).

In the latter case, I would infer that the reason for the "deceptive tactic to appeal to S.P. fans" was to somehow trick (a synonmym for "deceive") those fans into buying into Moore's political agenda -- an argument that I find either disengenuous (i.e. deceptive) on your part, or simply completely absurd.

Either way, your argument rests largely on the use of the word "deceptive." While I don't dispute that Moore may use "deceptive tactics," IMHO there was nothing "deceptive" in that particular segment of F9/11.

Of course, I would also argue that there was clearly nothing "deceptive" in the Air Pirates parody of Mickey Mouse, but the courts disagreed with me on that one.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at December 16, 2005 10:20 AM

Ah, Rick, excellent reasoning with which I can't argue. What I really think is that Moore wanted a South Park segment in his movie, the creators didn't agree to do it, so he did it himself. In this case, he was appealing to himself and his own desires. The juxtaposition of the interview with the sement, however, probably did fool people who saw the film into thinking that it was a Parker work. That's certainly deceptive, but what it accomplished is anyone's guess.

Posted by: Marilyn Ferdinand at December 16, 2005 12:37 PM

A little late perhaps, but...

" you think marriage is in any way the government’s business."

Doesn't that make people who believe the government SHOULD legalize gay marriage either hypocrites, bigots or both ?

Also, if you hold that marriage is a legal instituition that bestows rights and benefits, then aren't you also declaring that it's the government's business?

You don't have to bother answering. It may be some time before I'm here again anyway.

Posted by: eclark1849 at December 18, 2005 04:25 PM

I'm sorry, I meant to say that if you believe that marriage is a legally binding contract, then you automatically make it the government's business?

Posted by: eclark1849 at December 18, 2005 04:28 PM

Let's differentiate between federal and state governments. Since the federal government sees no need to get involved in state regulations governing lawyers and doctors, or a wide variety of other matters that have far greater impact on our lives than our neighbors' personal relations, I certainly don't see any compelling need for the constitutional amendment that has been suggested by President Bush.

As for the states, if they can regulate how old you have to be to get married, or the legal rights of spouses (which differ between states), then I can't think of a compelling reason why they can't pass laws governing other aspects of the institution. I might not want to live in a state that felt compelled to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples, but then some very religious people -- in places I definitely don't want to live -- don't like laws that restrict marriage to just couples. (Interesting factoid: Lincoln signed a federal anti-bigamy law in 1862; so there's certainly precedent for federal interference -- but IMHO it's a bad precedent).

Posted by: Rick Oliver at December 19, 2005 02:30 PM

I generally run to the center, but some of these are just too annoying. Thinking the government should be involved in marriages is bigoted? When hasn't it been?

A·mer·i·ca ( P ) Pronunciation Key (-mr-k)

The United States.
also the A·mer·i·cas (-kz). The landmasses and islands of North America, Central America, and South America.

Oh noes! Dictionary.com and common usage are bigoted!


Posted by: David N. Scott at January 4, 2006 04:30 AM

"you think all other religions are wrong."

every member of a religion who actually believes in his religion believes all other religions are wrong.

since there's nothing wrong with that... then there's nothing wrong with bigotry?

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