A Different World

Imagine if a Myrtle Beach police officer refused to patrol sinful places, citing a religious right not to have to

When should an individual’s faith views be allowed to supersede his duty to the public? Most of the debate has centered on those in retail, including pharmacists who don’t want to sell emergency contraception and caterers and florists who refuse to provide services for gay couples getting married. The Supreme Court will also decide soon if corporations can effectively claim a sort of religious conscience and refuse to provide health care plans that include particular contraception services.

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A police officer in Utah has taken it to a new level. He refused an assignment to provide security at an annual gay pride parade. For those who believe religious conviction trumps all, or almost all, was it right for his department to suspend him for his personal religious conviction? Or is that an infringement on his religious beliefs?

That’s always been the rub with this claim. If a personal religious view is allowed to supersede all, it will lead to more decisions like this officer’s. Imagine if a Myrtle Beach police officer decided it was against his religion to be in places where there was too much sin and temptation; he would become a useless member of the force.

There are some who hold what they believe are sacred faith views against inter-racial marriage who may decide to refuse such couples service. The Jehovah’s Witness emergency room doctor may decide not to perform a blood transfusion that is urgently needed. The soldier on the battlefield can claim killing is against his religion. And each of them can say denying them access to such livelihoods is a form of religious persecution, if personal conviction becomes the standard.

Individual religious liberty is important, of course, and vital. But it can’t be sacrosanct when it comes to our dealings with the public.