Jonathan TurleyIf true, the allegations could not be more disturbing. We have seen a debate over pharmacies and religious organizations opposed to supplying contraceptives. However, this is a state employee with a woman who is in custody. Had she given birth, it would have created a bizarre “wrongful birth” case where the defendant is the state. Even without a birth, if these allegations are true, this woman was put through a harrowing experience -
Most people who have been through jail have met the type: a born again Christian screw prattling on about Jesus, being saved, hellfire and the like. Crow like, their droppings are to be found in a range of locations: silly Christian mini comics replete with images of hell and guys called Lucifer. The ones with a good memory are the worst: they can quote line and verse from the bible as if it has some special otherworldly properties that they, the elect, know something about and must share with we plebs, solicited or not. The thought of them, or anybody else for that matter, being the recipeint of divinely reveal truths, is laughable. And they always love the Book of Revelations with all its violence. That seems to be their favourite. It helps their sense of sadism achieve fulfilment, the thought that somebody else might writhe in agony for ever. Nice people so long as they don't live next door to you.
Most people, even their own sacrilegious colleagues, viewed them as bores to be avoided. Many screws, like the rest of us, like to either chase skirt, watch soccer, do the garden, drink beer, anything other than go to bible class to hear how Jesus loves them so much he wants to see them burn in hell if the love goes unrequited. Rarely would the companionship of the godly have been sought out. Let’s face it: who wants to listen to sanctimonious preaching and pontificating finger wagging from gayhaters and misogynists? They never seem motivated by that elusive thing termed Christian love, forever being in search of things to hate.
Give that type of person authority and they tend to think they can use it to inflict a different type of authority: that of their own religious opinion. The case of a Tampa rape victim underscores the point. Thus far identified only as RW, she was raped in January 2007. Treated at the Rape Crisis Centre she was given two morning-after pills, one to be taken immediately and the second 12 hours later. She then reported the assault to the police. The cops ran her details through the system and discovered that there was a warrant out for her arrest for some misdemeanour or other.
When sent to the local jail one of the screws there, Michele Spinelli, confiscated her second pill on the grounds that it was against Spinelli’s, not RW’s, conscience and religious beliefs. Spinelli told R.W. that 'she would not give her the pill approved by a doctor because she viewed them to be a sin.’
Spinelli wasn’t even acting within the bounds of official prison policy. She chose to bypass that, believing somehow that armed with her religious opinion she had the right to strike others down if they did not share the same outlook as herself. The only reason of course that Spinelli was able to abuse RW was because of her position as a prison guard. She had the authority and the power within her job and she abused it to the detriment of a rape victim, bringing 'to light' how those who are "in charge" when it comes to dispensing are able to inflict their own moral beliefs onto someone else.'
RW’s confinement denied her the ability to search for an alternative. This exposed the woman prisoner to the risk of a pregnancy she did not want, did not solicit. Although she did not end up pregnant had she done so as a result of being denied the contraception that would have afforded her rapist the right to force her to carry for nine months what he unlawfully and forcibly deposited in her body. Backed by some bunch of clerics he could have demanded that she submit to his will. And she would have no rights at all. Horrendous.
Screws like anyone else in society are fully entitled to hold whatever beliefs they want. What they cannot be allowed to do is impose those views on others who do not hold them. The screws role is a custodial not a theocratic function. If the screw is opposed to contraceptive it is her absolute right not to take it. She should never be compelled to do so. At the same time she has no right to deny it to another woman.
The rape victim has filed an action against the prison system and a Florida U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich accepted that she had a right to do so.
Religious intolerance should never be rewarded with jobs in society where it can then use them to its own end and to discriminate against others. These people are not fit for purpose. Spinelli’s religious opinion is her own not her victim’s. John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim's Progress, spotted the type way back in the 1600s when he said they ‘make the exercise of religion their pretence to cover their wickedness.’ If a religious opinion is such that a person feels they can’t perform the work then they should not be in the post. Get a job as a preacher with the rest of the cranks.