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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I Want a Shield Law

Yesterday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (question: we've been having papers delivered to us on Fridays for the last several weeks, even though we're Sunday-only subscribers, and last week, we didn't even get a Sunday paper . . . what's up with that?) had yet another article about pharmacists refusing to do their jobs:
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 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.
Even though this was an Illinois case, the Milwaukee paper ran the story because the Wisconsin state legislature is still considering a bill that would allow pharmacists here to refuse to fill prescriptions based on their personal beliefs:
In April, Wisconsin's Pharmacy Examining Board reprimanded and limited the license of a pharmacist who in July 2002 refused to fill a birth control prescription. The pharmacist [. . .] was working a Saturday at the Menomonie Kmart pharmacy when he refused to fill the prescription for a college student or transfer it to another pharmacy.

Just before [the pharmacist] was reprimanded, Republican legislators introduced a bill that would allow pharmacists to opt out of certain practices if they oppose them. The bill says that if pharmacists refuse to dispense products on moral grounds, they would be shielded from disciplinary action by the board or the Department of Regulation and Licensing.
Every time I hear about this pharmacist stuff now, I start thinking how nice it would be if I had a shield law for myself, if there were protections for me to do or not do things in my high school English classroom based on my own personal beliefs. Let's say I didn't feel I should have to teach verbs anymore. Or poetry, or mythology, or how to write essays. How long would I last as a teacher? (Say what you will about "tenure"--Milwaukee Public Schools doesn't really have it, so it can't save me.)

Remember the furor from a few weeks ago when some overzealous Madison teachers gave an assignment that followed their own personal beliefs? If you don't remember the fury, you can pretty much take your pick of people crying foul. I actually try carefully to keep my own personal beliefs out of my classroom, because I actually try to be a professional. And believe me, there are times when I would like to be unprofessional. It burns me up when I hear people defending unprofessinalism in others.

Of course, now Pat Robertson's law flunkies are literally defending this unprofessionalism in court, although it's clear in the Illinois case that Walgreen's was just following the law. All of these cases bear watching though; as in the war on Christmas baloney, the radical right's persecution complex is running out of control.

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