A Question of Professionalism

First there were the laws that allowed pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for legal medications that violated their religious beliefs.

Now, Tennessee and several other states are considering legislation that would protect social workers and mental health professionals who turn away suicidal clients when those clients’ “life styles” offend the provider’s religious beliefs. If the suffering client is gay, or divorced, or otherwise not up to the “moral standards” prescribed by the counselor’s religion, the proposed law protects the “professional” who refuses help against liability for the results of that refusal.

I’d be tempted to ask the sponsor of this measure if he really believes that Jesus would approve of turning away people in pain–especially those at risk of suicide– but that’s beside the point. The personal religious beliefs of a professional are also beside the point. We expect a “pro life” policeman to arrest arsonists, even if those arsonists are burning down an abortion clinic. We expect public school teachers to instruct all the children in their classrooms whether or not they approve of a particular child’s gay parents. Most of us would be appalled if an emergency room doctor refused to treat a badly beaten prostitute because his religion taught that she “had it coming.”

Professionalism requires adherence to the norms of that profession. People who are unwilling to accept those norms and act accordingly need to find different careers.


  1. Fundamentalism is a real threat to humanity. Be it the Taliban or our domestic ones. People who just KNOW what Gods will is for them and others. They are a real danger. But OUR county is a nation of LAWS and not Holly Books. (Mostly) Thanks for all you work Prof K.

  2. Atheists are “tolerant?” That’s not been my experience. My experience is that they are far more intolerant than most people who are religious.

  3. Troy Schneck asked on your facebook page: What about racists not letting a person of color treat them at the hospital?

    So to not out my sister’s identity online or Facebook, I want Troy to know I DO know someone that has done that. My flesh and blood sister did that exact thing at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit a decade ago and I’ve never been able to broach the subject with her. I was afraid I’d slap her for it. We haven’t spoken in nearly 3 yrs so I don’t miss her, obviously. I can’t believe we came from the same womb.

  4. I took my gay friend Gene to a hospital ER in Florida after he seriously cut his hand on a large knife while washing dishes. He was well taken care of by all; after treating and stitching the deep cut the doctor explained to both of us how to care for the very serious wound. I made Gene spend the night at my home rather than send him home alone; fortunately I forced the issue as we were both up all night. He was not only in severe pain but his entire arm was shaking and numb. We returned to the emergency room early the next morning to find a different doctor on duty. The nurse very kindly unbound Gene’s would, examined it and went to get the doctor. This “doctor” stood in the doorway of the exam room, looked at Gene and asked the nurse, “Is that man gay?” She stated she didn’t know or care. The “doctor” said, “Send him out, he is only here for drugs.” and he walked away. We called later and spoke to Gene’s orginal doctor who had been trying to call him at home after being told what happened. He ordered us back to the hospital immediately where he re-examined and ex rayed the wound and found a chipped bone pressing on nerves. Because of time elapsed due to the other “doctor” refusing treatment, it was too late to restitch the wound causing additional care problems. He told Gene when to return while he was on duty and if he received a bill for any of the treatment he received, to bring it to him – he would take care of it…and he kept his word.

  5. I fear it’s not merely a matter of professionalism. Just as in the case of “religious” exceptions for bullying, the goal is not just to allow people to follow their religious beliefs. The goal is to encourage a vigilante “Solution” to the blasphemy of homosexuality. While they know they could not, yet, pass and enforce the “death penalty for gays” law of Kenya, they supported it there and hope to get the same result, one homosexual at a time, right here in the good ol’ U S of A.

Comments are closed.