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How far will we take discrimination in the name of religious freedom?

  • Author: Shannyn Moore
    | Opinion
  • Updated: January 20
  • Published January 20

It's been almost 10 years since I opened a package mailed to me care of a long-ago radio station. "Thank you for your voice. We found this in my father's house after he died. He'd removed it from a restaurant many years ago. Don't forget about us."

Inside was a sign. "No Dogs. No Natives."

There were plenty of signs hung around Alaska to remind everyone who was at the top of the genetic food chain. It's shameful. "No Indians." "We cater to white trade only." and "Meals at all hours — All white help."

There are still many wounds from bygone eras of discrimination. Too much blood has been spilled fighting for racial justice across our state and country. It's a fight we are reminded every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Thoughtful citizens renew their resolve in the current battles.

We aren't going back. We won't.

Someone should tell the president.

The Trump administration, while not working to solve problems that do exist, has invented a new problem to solve. While preparing for a government shutdown, millions of children and pregnant women are losing health care access. The administration is trying to implement a rule to allow health care workers to opt out of treating transgender citizens based on their own religious objections to the "lifestyle" of the patient.

Will they put a sign on the door of their clinics while the objecting providers are on duty? "No Dogs. No Trans." That should cover it.

In their quest to let medical providers discriminate in who they will treat, the Department of Health and Human Services would also expand the exemptions to women seeking birth control, abortions, hormone therapy, fertility treatments for lesbian couples or medications for HIV and AIDS patients.

"No Dogs. No Sluts."

"No Dogs. No Queers."

"No Dogs. No Sick People."

During a press conference, Roger Severino, an official with HHS, a longtime opponent of trans and women's rights, compared medical providers to victims of the Holocaust. He believes that having to treat a patient who needs help is like being gassed in an oven with your family. He then used part of Dr. King's letter from the Birmingham jail to explain the "oppression" these health care workers go through, "stripped of their religious freedom." "Dr. King in his letter wrote that this is the exercise of conscience — this is what conscience looks like," Severino said. "And now we've come to today, where we see that health care, especially with the Office of Civil Rights at HHS, is the next area where the issues of conscience and the issues of life and death are coming to the fore."

People protest President Donald Trump’s announcement that he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving in any capacity in the U.S. military, in Times Square, in New York on July 26, 2017. (Carlo Allegri / Reuters file)

I'm heartsick trying to figure out what elements of the severity of the Holocaust or the civil rights movement Mr. Severino doesn't understand. The Hippocratic Oath is not a religious litmus test. Doctors know this.  Its original text included, "I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses." Now it says, "Above all, I must not play at God." Doesn't that mean not judging those who need medical care based on one's own arbitrary beliefs?

This is a slippery slope. I hate to ask what's next.

What if there's a fireman who doesn't agree with the lifestyle of LGBT citizens? Can he opt out of fighting a fire at their house? Should there be a mark on their mailbox so he knows he's not risking his life to save them? What about a trooper or EMT person responding to a car wreck? If they don't think women should have abortions and one has, can they decide based on their moral convictions that they aren't comfortable resuscitating her by the side of the road? Is there a special bumper sticker she should be required to have so they aren't compromising their morals? Should first-grade teachers have to teach kids to read who have two mommies? That child may have been the result of in vitro fertilization. Should he have a special badge on his backpack so teachers can withhold education in order to they feel better when they pray?

Brothers and sisters, this is way past a baker refusing to make a wedding cake. This policy change is taking a chainsaw to our social fabric. We need each other to survive situations we don't plan for. We trust that those who choose to serve in their line of work, will indeed serve. If someone can opt out of their job because they don't like something about you — and they base that on religion, then they neither understand the precepts that God has laid out before them, nor what it means to be a member of our society. It means the American experiment, has indeed, failed.

Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

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