Jiminy Cricket!

When you get in trouble and you don’t know right from wrong
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle!
When you meet temptation and the urge is very strong
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle!

Not just a little squeak, pucker up and blow
And if your whistle’s weak, yell, “Jiminy Cricket!”

Take the straight and narrow path
And if you start to slide
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle!
And always let your conscience be your guide

An MTC bus driver asks to be excused from driving buses that advertise a local gay magazine. Muslim cab drivers at the Minneapolis airport refuse to transport passengers carrying alcohol. Some pharmacists refuse to dispense “morning after” pills. Why does an individual bringing his or her conscience into the workplace make headlines?

Actually, someone’s conscience is at the root of just about everything that makes headlines, whether it’s the story of a liquour store being held up, domestic abuse, egregious stock options or lieing about an opponent in a political advertisement. In each case someone has made a decision about what is right or wrong for them and pushed his or her morality on others, usually with negative consequences. Most will agree that the examples I just cited reflect bad behavior but shrug it off as just the way things are; perhaps we’ll even feel a little personal smugness becuase “I wouldn’t do something like that.” But what about when someone acts out of his or her desire to do what they think is right, even if it stands in opposition to society’s norms? Why is it easier for us (or the pundits, anyway) to shake their heads at those who act badly out of their own self-interest, but shake their fists at those others for being self-righteous?

In a free society and a free market these actions should not be a big issue. True, it can lead to inconveniences and even some perceived injustices, but these can be managed by the market. If a taxi-driver at the airport doesn’t want to take a passenger carrying booze (or even, by their same reasoning, an unveiled or unescorted woman), so be it, but suffer the consequences of the market. If there’s a sudden surge in the numbers of women or alcohol-carrying passengers waiting at the airport, other cabs can move in. If the airport, in an effort to serve it’s passengers, passes a rule that says a cab either takes the next waiting fare or goes back to the end of the line, that’s fine, too. Everyone gets to make a choice. It’s not too different from telling the taxi captain that you want a cab that accepts credit cards, which is already common practice at the airport.

In the case of the pharmacies and birth-control or morning-after pills, women have a right to buy these things, just as I have a right to buy ammunition. Nevertheless, I can’t walk into any drugstore or sporting goods store and expect to find bullets. If a business-owner decides it is personally important not to offer something, it is his or her choice — and he or she can live with the business consequences if enough people choose to go elsewhere. Or the businessperson can hire some pharmacists who are willing to sell these items and some who won’t, or even decide to hire only pharmacists who will.

In the bus driver’s situation, allowing a reasonable accomodation to the person’s beliefs shouldn’t be that big of an issue, especially if the bus company decides that it is worth it in order to keep a skilled or experienced employee. For all I know, the same bus company may aleady allow Muslim drivers to take time out from their routes to pray at the prescribed times (though this seems difficult to work around). If the bus company doesn’t want to do these things, the drivers have a choice of what is more important as well.

I’ve had some experience with this type of situation myself. I once worked for a small advertising and promotion agency that landed a large account with a brewery. There was great rejoicing by the owners of the agency. It was also a great creative opportunity to do some high-profile work that would look good in a portfolio. I was asked to be the copywriter for the client’s main brands. This was an issue for me in that, while I’m not going to try and stop people from drinking, I believe it is wrong for me to encourage them to do so. At the same time, I had a young family to support. It wasn’t easy but I told the creative director that I couldn’t work on those brands. This was not well received because, after all, it was a “legal product.” I asked the CD how he’d feel about working on a cigarette account. It was then arranged that I would work instead on the non-alcoholic beer and bottled water brands for that account. Would I have quit my job of been fired if that hadn’t happened? Most likely. It wouldn’t have been a challenge I embraced, but I trust that God is my source and not the job I happen to hold. Others might have chosen differently, but that too is their choice.

While I may find situations where I am inconvenienced or offended by someone exercising their conscience, I am not going to try to ban it (this does not extend to someone who feels it is his religious duty to kill me, however). We all need to just deal with it; shop somewhere else, work somewhere else, we’ll find the place that makes us happy. There is nothing so intolerant as laws requiring “tolerance” as we’ve seen this week with certain groups advocating for an international law against criticizing global warming theories (this applies only to the global warming theories that agree that there is such a thing, that is).

2 thoughts on “Jiminy Cricket!

  1. As Thomas Sowell once said, “What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don’t like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don’t expect freedom to survive very long.”

  2. Good post NW; I just had some anonymous leftist try to trip me up on the same subject in a comment they left; I hope they stumble on this; because it outlines exactly, though in a much more thorough and organized way, the point I tried to make back at them.

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