Refusing book sales

11 Aug

If pharmacists have the right to refuse to fill a birth control prescription because it is against his morals or religion, then do I have the right to refuse the sale of a book that is against my morals or religion?

Most may laugh at this question, but I am completely serious.  How come the “conscience laws” only apply to the medical profession?  Do only nurses, doctors, and pharmacists have morals?  Lowly booksellers such as myself have a conscience and, just like some medical professionals don’t morally agree with every drug out there, I do not morally agree with every book out there.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of women being refused birth control at the pharmacy.  Some of us have even heard of married mothers being refused a hysterectomy at a Catholic hospital after giving birth to her fourth child.  But imagine if the same laws that protect the medical field in these scenarios (and, sadly, not the women) would also protect the bookseller over the customer.

Today* marks the release of Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s latest book: In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms.  While I have nothing against stay-at-home moms (I was brought up by one), I don’t agree with anything Schlessinger has to say.  So, why do I have to help sell her book?

I can imagine it now:  I stand at customer service, just doing my job, when a woman comes up and asks for the book.  This is how the conversation would normally go:

Customer: Do you have that new book by Dr. Laura?  I don’t remember the name of it.

Awesome Bookseller: Yes, we do.  It is called In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms.  It’s up front; let me show you.    [Walks customer to display and hands her the book]  It’s even 20% off.  Is there anything else I can help you with?

Customer: No, thank you.  This was all I wanted.

Now, imagine if you will what would happen if I were protected by the “conscience laws”:

Customer: Do you have that new book by Dr. Laura?  I don’t remember the name of it.

Bookseller: It’s called In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms.

Customer: That’s right!  Do you have it?

Bookseller: Yes.

Customer (getting a little irritated): Could you show me where it is?

Bookseller: Sorry, but I don’t agree with the book and I therefore refuse to fill your request.  Have a good day!

Imagine the shock and horror on the customer’s face if this occurred.  At least the bookseller was being honest.  She could have, like many pharmacists do, lied and said that the book was not in stock.**

Again, many of you would probably find this laughable.  It’s just a book!  Who cares?  Well, what if it were just one genre of book?  What if booksellers were allowed to refuse sales of sexuality books?

The store in which I work has a huge (pardon the pun) section on sex and sexuality (and in a conservative little town, none-the-less).  At least once a week I walk by to find a man, usually white-haired, looking at one of the books, and a bit of a boner showing.  I am no prude so I have no problem selling sex books.  But there are plenty of people out there who do:

Customer (young woman): I am looking for the Kama Sutra.  Do you have it?

Bookseller: Are you married?

Customer (taken aback): What does that have to do with anything?

Bookseller: I’ll show you where the Kama Sutra is once you answer the question.

Customer: Well, no, I’m not married.

Bookseller: I’m sorry.  I can’t sell you the book.  Sex is only for marriage.

Now, I want you to look at all these little scenarios I’ve laid out.  Seriously look at them.  Do you find it absurd?  Why?  Do you think that booksellers and other retailers have the right to refuse to sell something that is against his/her morals?  Why or why not?  If they cannot, then should the medical community?

I know where I stand.  Do you?

*I wrote this piece on April 7, 2009.

**In 2005, Dan Gransinger, a pharmacist in Arizona, wrote a letter to the editor of The Arizona Republic and flat out said that pharmacists who do not believe in dispensing Emergency Contraception should lie and say they are out of stock so that the woman would be forced to go elsewhere.

1 Comment

Posted by on August 11, 2009 in Rants


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One response to “Refusing book sales

  1. Mark

    August 13, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    As a bookseller, couldn’t you just not order the book? That would be like refusing to sell it on moral grounds.


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