Licensed to Discriminate

By Mark David Blum, Esq.

Doctors lawyers engineers, notaries real estate agents and pharmacists are but some of the jobs and professions that are not doable without a license from the State. You cannot practice medicine or law even if you graduated from the finest schools until such a time as the State actually issues you a license. That license is your golden ticket to your career.

At the same time, the license granted by the State makes you one of the select few who can practice in your profession. Without a license, you are just a well educated person who has the skills and training. Until the moment the State issues you a license, you are just a wannabe

Along with that license come certain professional responsibilities and standards. Set by legislature or executive fiat, all professionals with a license must adhere to this minimum set of standards. For this reason we have licensing; so that the State can assure the People that the person so licensed has proven a basic competence in the field. The license also acts as a means by which the State can monitor and oversee the actions of the licensee.

Because not everybody gets a license; even with the training and education, the State has established a limited and controlled market. Only those with licenses can feed and support the public in a particular field. At the same time, the People are only allowed by law to choose from the few licensees available to receive the particular product or service.

In his waning days as President, George Bush has put his signature on an Executive Order that allows licensees to discriminate against citizens based on the belief system of the license holder. In doing so, the President has chosen to allow the few who have the privilege to discriminate against citizens based on the religious beliefs of the practitioner. Pharmacists do not have to dispense the morning after pill, a Catholic lawyer does not have to defend a Jew. Real estate agents do not have to sell to Black folks. According to this new executive Order, federal funding would be cut off for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that does not accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other employees who refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable.

Maybe we should cut off federal funding for George Bush. In his Order, he is using the federal financial musculature to bully State and local medical agencies to permit outright discrimination based on religious grounds. People who have licenses issued by the State are now not liable for turning their backs on people in medical need just because the license holder disagrees with the patient’s religious perspective.

Licensed medical professionals are in controlled supply. Because not everybody has a choice in the health care provider and certainly the number of health care providers is controlled by the State, the freedom of the citizen to select a provider who will actually provide care is now subject to a religious litmus test. It is not always doable to change providers or find another medical specialist to treat you and hence the patient is at the mercy of the God of the doctor.

This is wrong on so many levels. Primarily, because the license is issued by the State, the practitioner is in some part a State actor because without the license, the licensee could not be engaged in their profession. The new rule now makes the States mandated partners in a federal scheme to control medical delivery contingent upon religious preference. The Constitution of the United States and of the Constitutions of the various States make clear that no citizen shall suffer from State sanctioned religion. President Bush’s new executive Order bypasses that fundamental principle and opens the floodgates to mass religious discrimination across the board. None of us is safe from the belief system of treating medical personnel. To me, the world just became a lot more dangerous. Now I have to fear the religious ethos of my licensed medical provider.

The rule is not just limited to pharmacists who refuse to honor a doctor’s prescription and dispense certain drugs. It would enable a Christian Scientist to refuse any medical treatment and insist instead that the patient just pray harder to end the cancer. Pain relief and life saving procedures can be denied the patient at the religious whim of the licensed doctor.

It is clear the new President, Barak Obama is coming into office with his hands full and with many problems and issues requiring his immediate attention. I call upon the President elect to make it amongst his first priorities to declare that if you take a license from the State that you are required to not discriminate against others based on what you perceive as being ethically, morally or religiously objectionable. That is not a luxury that goes with a State’s license.

I call upon the incoming President to overturn President Bush’s Executive Order. Make the United States and the several States free and open societies that do not license professionals to discriminate against those in need. Let the patient and not God decide what treatment is provided and what medications are taken. Otherwise, people are going to suffer needlessly.

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