Thought dictators? Hardly.

I read a thought-provoking article by Joshua P. Morgan titled “Thought Dictators Gaining Force” in today’s Niagara Falls Review. The article does not appear on-line so I cannot post a link.

Joshua claims, and I’ll quote him so I don’t mangle his thought,

People often say it’s a free country. It’s really not. It actually costs a lot, including limits on your freedom you may or may not agree with.

One freedom that is gradually being eroded is the ability to answer to your own conscience and think for yourself. These restrictions are often portrayed as progressive, and therefore their mandatory nature excused.

I certainly agree that for everyone to enjoy freedoms, some activities must be curtailed. The only alternative is utter anarchy. But is the ability to think for ourselves being curtailed?

Morgan gives an example.

A Calgary bus driver who identifies as a traditional Christian says he would rather be fired than drive a bus painted with the LGBT pride flag. He says it is counter to his beliefs to support homosexuality; therefore he will not drive that bus.

But he does not have the right to refuse. The union collective agreement says he can only refuse to work over safety issues, thus the city says he has no choice but it take the wheel if they tell him to.

I say this is wrong. He should be free to decline to participate in something that runs counter to his faith.

I recall hearing about this news story but I didn’t think too much about it and recall not really knowing whether I agreed that the driver should be able to refuse to drive that particular bus or not. Let me leave this issue for a moment and present Morgan’s second example.

…I found it offensive when Justin Trudeau announced he was making it mandatory for all of his candidates and MPs to vote pro-choice if they wanted to run under the Liberal banner.

By insisting on this position, he is not only obliging his members into a position they may not agree with, but he is forcing anyone who votes Liberal to effectively endorse abortion.

Honestly, I don’t think this is a very good example.

I believe that Trudeau took so much flack for this announcement because the topic he ruled upon is so controversial, and also because he said that he wouldn’t monkey with the nomination process of Liberal MPs. The trouble I had with Trudeau on this issue is he seemed to be restricting the ability of MPs to represent their constituents. Imagine the unlikely riding in which every single person was anti-abortion. The Liberal MP representing this riding could not vote as his constituents would like. But upon a little reflection, I think Trudeau was a lot more forthright than the NDP. According to the CBC, the leader of the NDP, Thomas Mulcair, has stated that no NDP minister “will ever vote against a woman’s right to choose.” If that’s the case, isn’t it exactly the same thing? At least Trudeau is putting it out there to let everyone know.

Further, MPs are expected to side with their party when many, if not most, votes are called. Indeed, they even have a special name for votes in which the party leader announces that MPs are free to vote as they please: free votes. Morgan’s claim that anyone who votes Liberal is forced to support abortion conveniently ignores that no one is forced to vote Liberal, so no one is forced to support abortion. It’s a non-issue.

It’s funny because before I thought the issue through, I felt as Morgan does about Trudeau. After some thought, I realize that he’s simply making his intentions known before the election, which forced the other party leaders to do the same.

The bus driver issue also came into clearer focus after some thought and I disagree with Morgan on this topic as well.

The Calgary Transit pride bus.

The Calgary Transit pride bus.

Jesse Rau drives a city bus. Homosexuality may be against his beliefs, but a bus with a LGBT rainbow on it doesn’t force him to partake in homosexuality, nor accept it in any way. No rational person believes the words and symbols on the outside of a city transit bus mean that the driver is a believer or even supporter of those words. He’s simply the bus driver. Have we ever seen a Jewish driver refuse to drive a bus with a McDonald’s ad on the side because McDonalds’ food is not kosher in North America? Has a Muslim driver ever refused to drive a bus with a humane society ad that has a dog photo? In 2013, Atheist groups around the world ran bus ads that espoused their beliefs and although there was controversy, I don’t recall reading that any transit employees refused to drive the buses. I’m sure there are plenty of other examples of people who work with examples of beliefs they do not share and somehow manage to understand that others sometimes have different beliefs.

If this Christian purist were allowed to choose the ads and decoration of the bus he drives, what’s next? Would Rau decide that he can’t carry LGBT passengers? The line has to be drawn somewhere that balances the freedom of the driver with everyone else’s freedom. The job is to drive a city bus and what’s on the outside of it doesn’t affect his ability to do the job. He insists that he’d rather be fired than drive the bus he’s assigned, and I’m willing to accept his decision. If he’d follow his conscience and simply quit, I could feel a modicum of respect for him choosing not to make a circus about the issue.

The buses certainly run on Sundays in Calgary. I wonder if Rau has ever worked on Sunday, because he might want to have a look at Exodus 35:2.


Pride bus photo courtesy of Calgary Transit.

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