So what do Minnesota cab drivers, a British policewoman and Texas pharmacists have in common? Not much, one might think; at least on the surface. But all of them have refused and/or are planning to refuse, in some form or another, to render certain services due to their religious beliefs.
Muslim cabbies at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, are refusing cab service to anyone with alcohol in their possession, or people with dogs (including seeing-eye dogs!) because it violates Islamic religious doctrine. According to Hassan Mohamud, imam at a St. Paul mosque, "Muslims do not consume, carry, sell or buy alcohol, and Islam also considers the saliva of dogs to be unclean." This becomes a monumental problem when the majority of the 900 cab drivers at the Mpls/St. Paul airport happen to be Somali and many of those are Muslim.
And in London, recently, a Muslim policewoman refused to shake hands with Police Commissioner Ian Blair, during a graduation ceremony, stating that her religion prohibits physical contact between men and women, other than a husband or close relative. And even though Muslim groups have defended her actions, claiming that her religious beliefs would not unduly affect her job performance, I have to wonder what she will do when faced with apprehending a male felon.
And then we have Christian pharmacists, all over the U.S., refusing to dispense contraceptives (of any kind, including emergency contraceptives for rape victims) as a result of their moral and religious convictions. Some even refuse to refer the patient to other pharmacies willing to fill the prescription. And though I don't personally condone abortion (particularly as a means of contraception), if a rape victim chooses to prevent a potential pregnancy that was created through an act of violence, that woman should have the right to do so.
Whatever religion a person happens to embrace should be immaterial when it comes to hiring practices, but, if it interferes or adversely affects how they carry out their duties on-the-job, then the situation needs to be reassessed. I totally understand the desire to adhere to higher moral standards, but if those standards conflict with whatever profession you happen to be in, then it is incumbent upon you to either adjust or find other work. I've refused commercial auditions for alcohol and meat products on many occasions, and I would never accept a booking for a Burger King ad, show up on the set, and refuse to eat the beef! That's the height of unprofessionalism. I have also declined projects I found morally offensive. I wouldn't expect the director or playwright to re-write the script to suit my tastes. Nor should people working in the public service sector expect to be given special dispensation to pick and choose what they feel comfortable doing, because of their religious beliefs. If you feel morally conflicted about something you are asked to do, then quit, find another job or another profession.
And if you feel that strongly about your convictions, then consider creating a company that caters to those with the same beliefs. What about a Muslim cab company? Or a Christian pharmacy? In that way, people would know what they are dealing with before they choose to patronize a particular establishment, and workers would not have to compromise their principles. Every one is happy. End of story.