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Friday, April 22, 2005

Back to the Ghetto

“Catholics have no rights a white man is bound to respect.” This is essentially the position of Illinois Governor Ron Blagojevich and numerous other commentators on the issue of prescription abortifacients, also known as hormonal birth control drugs. Those who argue that Catholics cannot be pharmacists join the chorus arguing that Catholics cannot be judges, doctors, nurses, and in the most recent revelation from Florida’s Judge Greer, cannot act as parents. Not since the Middle Ages has there been such a determined push to outlaw the right of a religious group to work in certain trades.

Federal law stipulates that a business cannot refuse to employ or trade with someone on the basis of race or creed, but it is perfectly legal for a business to refuse to trade in a specific item. If the local restaurant refuses to serve pancakes after ten o’clock, if the local burger shop will sell fish sandwiches only on Fridays or perhaps not at all, no customer can sue them for these lapses. A business is permitted to refuse the sale of any item it pleases so long as that refusal is based on the item and not the customer requesting the item.

If an employee decides not to sell an item, the business owner may take what steps he deems against that employee, especially in the state of Illinois, where “at-will” employment holds sway. Perhaps a business owner hires Bartleby the Scrivener for his marvelous accounting skills and, as a side benefit, has him man the store counter as well. Perhaps the businessman discovers that Bartleby prefers not to sell playing cards on alternate Thursdays, and cannot be induced to do so. The man can fire Bartleby or accommodate him, but how is it the state’s business which course of action he chooses?

This is especially true when we consider the doctor-patient relationship. Those who insist this relationship is private fail to consider that the pharmacist is a doctor. When a woman’s medical doctor writes a prescription, he thereby transmits a privileged medical communication from himself to another doctor. The prescription is a request for a second opinion. The first doctor writes out his opinion concerning proper treatment and asks the doctor of pharmacy if he concurs. The patient is the courier for the communication. The professional judgement of the doctor of pharmacy concerning appropriate drug usage is critical to the entire medical profession, yet Illinois governor Ron Blagovich has arbitrarily decided that pharmacists are not doctors and have no professional judgement.

Thus, the same people who insist that the government has no right to interfere in medical practice applaud Illinois government’s interference in medical practice. Apparently, the right to privacy between doctor and patient is sacrosanct except when the doctor determines that she cannot, in good conscience, collaborate in a specific kind of treatment the patient insists on having. It was not illegal for doctors to refuse to work with chiropracters, and it still is not, but it has become illegal for doctors to work with Catholics and other Christians.

In America’s early years, Catholics made up less than one percent of the population. Before 1800, one in eight Catholics in that one percent was a slave; most of the rest were poor farmers. Because they had no political clout, because they were manifestly hated by the Protestant majority, Catholics paid a double taxation and were forbidden the right to vote or hold office. Catholic churches, convents and homes were burnt; mobs harassed or murdered adherents to the Faith.

Many claim that this kind of attitude no longer holds in an America where John Kennedy won the presidency. Few people bother to note that Kennedy won the election only through his insistence that he was an avowed apostate from the Faith. To be elected, he first had to insist that he would consider his Catholic convictions useless when it came time to act on any matter.

During the course of this year, America will lose its numerical Protestant majority. It will not lose its anti-Catholic bigotry. Thus, we watch Governor Blagojevich viciously attack a woman’s right of conscience. We wait in vain for the National Organization of Women to support an Illinois doctor of pharmacy in her decision to refuse to dispense what she considers a dangerous drug. We wait for the courts to rule that Catholics should return to the ghetto from whence they came.

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