Monday, July 02, 2012

Respecting beliefs. Or not.

Believe it or not, Dear Reader, but I have recently been accused of as being unprofessional (and an arsehole) because of my refusal to treat someone any differently than I would treat anyone else.

Because of their religious beliefs.

As you are probably all too aware, I am not a religious person. Yes, I probably look at anyone who is as mildly delusional, at best, to a raving whackjob, at worst. Because they are not rational.

But don't get me wrong, you can hold whatever irrational beliefs you like. I don't care if you believe in God (the Judeo/Christian/Islam one), gods (any of the others), fairies, Grays from Alpha Reticuli, or Santa Claus.

You are free to believe in whatever you like. One of the benefits of living in a reasonably tolerant, secular, society.

But what when your religious beliefs impinge upon my rights and obligations to perform my duties?

The matter in question actually happened around 6 months ago and was a relatively routine document service job on both a husband and wife residing at the same address. I had already made two prior attempts at service, without success, and as there was a time constraint, thought it might be prudent to contact them by phone and make an arrangement. And this is what I did.

Well, the woman was home and stated that her husband would be home shortly and that I was welcome to come over to serve the documents. However, I had to be at their address before dusk as they observed the Sabbath.

Dusk? What time was that, exactly?

Right, well I made a good attempt to get there before the appointed time but traffic was not kind. As it turned out, I arrived some 15 minutes after dusk.

So what did I do?

I went and served the documents, naturally, since I was already at the address. The wife was a little miffed but the husband was okay about it.

Now, back to the original question, at what point do we allow the beliefs of others to impinge on our rights and obligations?

My detractors have said I should have respected the Sabbath and not effected service. However, there is nothing in the legislation that I am bound by that states I must. In fact the only days service cannot be executed are Sundays and a few named public holidays; this is the principle of dies non juridicum (literally 'day without judiciary').

My response was that while the Defendants had chosen to follow a religious doctrine that curtailed their lives, I had not. I was not bound by their beliefs.

It was also alleged that I did not accord the Defendants with respect, however, I strongly disagree. I treated them in no different way (neither for nor against) but the same as anyone else. I was polite, mindful of their privacy, and even apologetic for the circumstances.

At the end of the day, I did my job as efficiently as possible and according to the laws of the land. While it would be nice if we could accomodate the special beliefs of everyone, we just don't have to. And where would we draw the line?

Your thoughts?


  1. I think you did the right thing. You were not rude or forceful. If their house caught fire after dusk I am pretty sure they would still call the fire brigade.

    1. Yeah. It just gets my goat when people accuse me of unprofessionalism or a lack of integrity.

      Well, there may be times when I am not quite my usually consumate professional self, but I do not believe this was one of those times.

  2. The law is the law. End of!

    It certainly helps to be aware of varying cultural differences and religious practices if only from the Sun Tzu’s principle of knowing ones enemy.

    We are not bound by religious doctrine or philosophical principles. We are however bound by the law and if the law says you can serve PingPong the firegod worshiper mid bush burn at noon on the summer solstice then personally I’d serve him.

    I personally don't do a thing after 16:00 on a Friday except worship at the alter of Jamesons thanking my Savior for giving me the foresight to have bought enough ice. I can however be served (aint happened yet, the buggers cant find me!)

    If the law says you must leave poor old PingPong alone then alone you must leave him but otherwise it is open season and a valid billable serve.

    1. Yeah.

      While I am fine with trying to fit in with whatever odd beliefs or practices the other party might have, I'll do so if convenient or necessary to achieve the task at hand.

      It's not like I go out of my way to offend.

      But when it isn't convenient, or required, then why should I?