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A loophole in the right to refuse

September 07, 2008

Re "A righteous refusal is everyone's right," Opinion, Sept. 2

Crispin Sartwell argues that society must respect the right of individuals to refuse to do that which violates their personal beliefs. What Sartwell fails to acknowledge is the loophole his viewpoint would create in all laws that proscribe discrimination in the provision of housing and services and allow for the collection of taxes.

If medical personnel could refuse to perform abortions, then could landlords who oppose abortion deny renting office space to physicians who refuse to promise not to perform the procedure? Could a business owner claim the right to deny service to someone whose religious beliefs are diametrically opposed to his or her own? Should citizens be able to withhold that percentage of their taxes that support government functions that go against their sincerely held moral code?

Our society enacted equal-access laws based on centuries of experience, recognizing that the climate of fear that resulted from allowing discrimination was a greater injustice than denying individuals a right to discriminate. This does not eliminate the right to a religious and/or moral belief system, but it does place consequences on those whose practices victimize those with whom they disagree.

Robert J. Switzer

West Hollywood


Sartwell argues that a society ought not to deny individuals the right to adhere to their moral convictions by requiring them to engage in activities to which they object.

There is a difference, however, between denying individuals the right to refuse to engage in behavior they abhor and asking them to consider where they work.

Physicians and nurses who object to abortions and other reproductive services have the right to work for an agency that supports their beliefs. Those with deeply held religious beliefs can and ought to choose to work for religious organizations or create their own practice, thereby being free to uphold their convictions while not infringing on the rights of others.

Bob Harris



Sartwell's article is the most profound and important piece published by The Times in the 40 years that I have been reading the paper. It should be required reading for all legislators, judges and justices, as well as all high school and college students in the United States.

Christopher L.


Newbury Park

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