Thursday, February 19, 2015

When "Personal Freedom" for Religious Objections Run Amok, Part II: You Set the Leg

If you hadn't seen my post from last week about a county marriage officiant refusing to marry an agnostic/atheist couple because they did not share his Christian beliefs, feel free to do so before diving into this latest big, steaming helping of jerkishness in the name of one Jesus of Nazareth.

A pediatrician in Michigan declined to treat the baby of a lesbian couple, sent some other hapless doctor out to deliver that awful news, and didn't even bother apologizing in any way (even verbally) until she got called out on it.

There is so much wrong with that scenario, I don't even know where to begin...

How about the fact that Dr. Vesna Roi didn't even have the guts to tell this couple, Krista and Jami, that she didn't feel she could be their baby's doctor, instead sending someone else to deliver the news?  That's just cowardice, plain and simple.  If you're going to be homophobic, the very least you can do to an increasingly tolerant and diverse world is own it.  Don't foist it on some poor, bystanding schlub to do the dirty work of telling a loving couple why their newborn won't be receiving medical care from the doctor who was recommended to them, that's not fair to the messenger.

Nor is it fair (painfully obviously) to the baby.  Even if you believe that same-sex relations are sinful (which I don't, or, at least, not any more sinful than heterosexual relations are), the kid is completely innocent in all this.  You're denying care to a person not because of who they are but because of who their parents are, but guess what?  Who cares.  As Abby Bartlet put it to her husband in The West Wing (season 4's episode "Swiss Diplomacy), "Samuel Mudd set (John Wilkes) Booth's leg after he shot Lincoln.  Doctors are liable in this country if they don't treat the patient in front of them."

And when reminded that Mudd was tried and convicted for treason for setting the leg, she simply said, "That's the way it goes.  You set the leg."

Now, as the Fox Detroit article notes, doctors "can refuse treatment if it's incompatible with their personal, religious, or moral beliefs," per the American Medical Association.

I'm not a grammar expert, but it sure seems as though the pronoun "it" in that sentence is serving as a stand-in for treatment being refused, not a patient being refused.

In other words, if Krista and Jami had come to Dr. Roi and, say, wanted an abortion, Dr. Roi could, with every justification, decline to provide that service based on a personal religious belief that abortion is immoral.  What she should not be able to do is decline a medical service because she holds a personal religious belief that the patient (or the patient's parents, in this case) is immoral.

Because think of the standard that sets--any patient who does not meet an individual doctor's whimsical and arbitrary moral code can be denied treatment by that doctor.

Raise your hands if you think that actually serves the "first, do no harm" ethos of the Hippocratic oath.

What gets me in all of this is that if the roles were reversed here--if a gay or lesbian pediatrician refused treatment for a baby born to Christian parents--I am roughly 110% sure the sizeable Christian blogosphere would erupt in moral outrage on behalf of the parents.  As well they should, because I can't imagine how mortified I might feel were I in Krista and Jami's shoes and denied medical service for my (hypothetical) kid because I'm, say, a Christian, by a doctor who was recommended to me by a trusted source--in this case, the family's midwife.

But that means our moral outrage that we are so quick to reach for (I know, I'm like that too...) needs to be proffered to all victims of discrimination, not just Christian victims.  Because discrimination is Pharisaic in the purest sense of the term: it is using arbitrary legalism to define who is and who isn't a part of the chosen.

And in this case, discrimination runs afoul of the exact same passage from 1 Thessalonians I wrote about in the post about the marriage officiant in Virginia--this doctor in Michigan is likewise not doing her job, and in so doing being inhospitable to strangers.

In thinking we are upholding Scripture, we end up violating its commands in often profound ways.  Just like this.

So, I'm left saying the same thing again to another legalistic jerk of a Christian: do your effing job.  And if you can't, get into another line of work.  Because you're making it worse for the rest of us who are just trying to actually love as we ourselves would want to be loved.  Which is why I always feel the need to write these posts after reading about the hurt that GLBTQ people receive at the hands of Christians--I want to be able to say YOU ARE LOVED.

Because--again, I cannot stress this enough--it isn't rocket science.  We just act like it is.

Love God, love each other.


Full stop.

Got it?  Good.  Live it.

Yours in Christ,

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