The Michigan House of Representatives has been pretty busy lately. First, they passed this bill (HB 5040 of 2012) which makes it okay for students in counselor training programs to engage in discriminatory practices against LBGT clients, by refusing to counsel them. Then they passed House Bill 5711 of 2012 which places draconian restrictions on facilities that offer abortion as part of their services. And, in response to the word ("vagina") used by Democratic state Rep. Lisa Brown in speaking out against HB 5711, HB 5712, and HB 5713, the Republican Majority Floor Leader banned her from speaking the next day.
It seems to me that these actions aren't about decorum or conscience or manners--they're about Power--who is entitled to wield it, and who is not. This quote from Animal Farm is apt in describing the situation: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others"- George Orwell, Ch. 10. The latest targets are women, but the "Freedom of Conscience Act" troubles me because, although it targets LGBT people, there is nothing to prevent other vulnerable groups from the "equal opportunity" of discrimination.
I really waffle about this "Freedom of Conscience Act".
Would I want someone who is so clearly biased counseling me? What if my being overweight or having red hair set off a gag reflex in some counseling intern and (s)he decided to tell me that I made them sick, it was against their religious principles to treat fat redheads, and I'd have to go to someone else?
Would I be hurt? You bet!
Would I argue over their reaction to me? No--but I might say something pretty choice to their supervising instructors.
Would I be likely to seek counseling from another intern in the program? Not very...
Isn't this like allowing a doctor to refuse to treat a (name your persecuted minority) patient? Yes, it is. We cringe in horror when we recall the shunning that patients with leprosy, tuberculosis, and later AIDs were treated. We fight to close the institutions for the disabled because they are inhumane. And yet, our legislature thinks it's okay to hide behind (Christian) religious beliefs to refuse to give counsel?
Of course, then it occurs to me that no amount of counselor training is likely to make a difference. Maybe it's a losing proposition to try to open such a closed mind. Maybe it's okay to discriminate, as screwed up as that sounds?
Now, this Act only singles out students in counseling programs. But what if we take it another step further? What if our legislature decides that this "protection" should be extended to teaching interns? What happens when the legislature extends its' attack to teacher education (e.g. I only teach
(name your privileged class)? This is wrong, wrong, wrong.
But then, I guess that "Some of us are more equal than others".