Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Kerry Defending Freedom of Religion and Religious Tolerance

John Kerry has been promoting religious tolerance in the work place with proposed legislation since 1997. Unfortunately some Democratic blogs have misinterpreted the latest version of this bill, sponsored along with Rick Santorum in the hopes of finally having a chance of passage.

The point of this legislation is tolerance. Tolerance works both ways. The goal is to allow people the ability to practice their religious beliefs in the work place under certain circumstances. This includes wearing religious garb and observing holidays. This aspect appeals to Republicans, giving the bill a fighting chance to pass. What is important from our point of view is that in allowing such freedom of religious expression, the bill also places reasonable limits to prevent such religious expression from interfering with the owners of a business or its customers.

The act has received increased attention due to the recent problems of pharmacists refusing to dispense contraceptives due to their religious beliefs. The bill provides a fair compromise here. A pharmacist would be allowed to refuse to dispense the contraceptive only if there was another pharmacist on duty in the same pharmacy who would dispense the contraceptive. This protects the customers right to receive whatever medications are prescribed by their doctor.

In an ideal world it would not be necessary for such legislation. In an ideal world employers would respect the religious practices of their employees wherever possible, but we would not face problems such as pharmacists refusing to dispense medications. Unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a country where the religious right is increasingly imposing their views upon others. Kerry's measure would place reasonable limits here, such as guaranteeing that contraceptives are dispensed regardless of the religious views of the pharmacist.


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