In his 2013 exhortation, Evangelli Gaudium, Pope Francis said, “A healthy pluralism, one which genuinely respects differences and values them as such, does not entail privatizing religions in an attempt to reduce them to the quiet obscurity of the individual’s conscience or to relegate them to the enclosed precincts of churches, synagogues or mosques.”
The privatization of religion has taken yet another step towards the point of exclusion from society. The District of Columbia Council passed a bill in December that would ban any organization from firing an employee if they chose to abort, use in vitro fertilization, or birth control, regardless of the organization’s stance on these issues. The bill also prevents any employer from taking a person’s stance on these issues into consideration when hiring. Various private organizations, including The Archdiocese of Washington, Knights of Columbus, and Catholic University of America (as well as several non-Catholic organizations) petitioned Congress to have this bill overturned, a right given to Congress if both houses approve and the president signs. This Congressional entitlement is rarely used; this is the first time in 23 years that it has been attempted.
Representative Diane Black (R-TN), who introduced the resolution to the House, said, “This coercive measure would ban pro-life organizations in D.C. from even considering a job seeker’s view on abortion as a condition of employment.” This would potentially mean that organizations such as The Susan B. Anthony List or the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, which have offices in DC, would have to consider a job candidate who is Pro-Choice. These organizations exist to eradicate abortion, yet they would have to consider hiring someone who is opposed to their mission.
As an employee of a private, Catholic organization, I did not think twice about having to declare the oath of fidelity nor sign my contract that said that I may not cause scandal or speak out against the Catholic Church. A sense of professionalism, as well as obedience to the Church to me was a no-brainer. If I had major objections to what was being asked of me, I was free to work for the thousands of other employers who do not demand such adherence. However, even the secular world demands a level of professionalism and discretion, because one always represents where he or she works. My very first job was selling pretzels at the mall at the age of 15. I recall our manager, a middle-aged woman, who said to us that we must always act in a professional and reputable manner, lest we be fired for representing the pretzel place poorly. This begs the question, why would the bill passed by DC Council be allowed? Why is it that speaking out against the Church would (rightly) get me fired, but a person who has an abortion or speaks out in favor of “a woman’s right to choose” while working at a place that explicitly is trying to eradicate abortion have job security?
Few would be surprised that those who will feel the effects of this legislation are only from one side of the abortion debate. Planned Parenthood’s human resources website states, “Planned Parenthood is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes all qualified applicants, regardless of gender, race, age, sexuality or disability.” One striking omission from this is the discrimination of creed, which many secular organizations’ nondiscrimination act include.
So, I gave Planned Parenthood a friendly phone call to see if someone who is opposed to abortion would be considered for employment at Planned Parenthood. I said that this [fictional] person has a strong background in grant writing for nonprofits, however is personally opposed to abortion. Would that, I wondered, be a deterrent in the consideration for her employment? The woman I spoke to did not give me a straight “no”; however she did question a person’s impetus for working at Planned Parenthood if she was opposed to abortion. Fair enough. However, I do not believe Planned Parenthood’s glaring omission should be ignored. A letter in support of the DC Council’s law from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Organization for Women, among others said, “Women and men in D.C. should have the ability to make their own decisions about their reproductive health without fear of losing their jobs or facing retribution from their employers.” While few would argue that it is a boss’ right to know an employee’s medical history, one must also realize that some “medical” procedures are contradictory to some workplaces’ very missions. Pro-life organizations recognize that abortions are not mere medical procedures, but matters of life and death.
Later in Evangelli Gaudium, Pope Francis wrote, “Nowadays efforts are made to deny [unborn children] their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this.” There is no arguing that this unnecessary and intrusive law is standing in the way of the pro-life mission. The truth of life is being so sequestered from public eye that those who work in the pro-life movement are being forced through this law to keep silent and have their mission quelled. This may be another step in keeping those who believe in the dignity of life silent. But in the end, truth always wins.