Booksellers’ right of conscience rule

Today I read that the Bush administration has affirmed that the “right of conscience” applies to a very large range of health care workers and activities.  Money quote: “The rule is so broadly written that it could end up affecting any health care worker who declines to provide contraception to patients, give information about birth control or make referrals to organizations willing to perform abortions or supply emergency contraception, [The Washington Post] notes.

Naturally, this led me to think about bookselling.  Yesterday, I had to recommend for a customer a book in the vein of Gingrich and Limbaugh, for his father.  I don’t like either of those men, but I did my job, and handed him a few books to choose from.  I even refrained from any snarky comments (well, okay, I sort of refrained–but the customer and I were in agreement, so it was kosher).  I felt kind of dirty about it, because in many cases, I disagree with these men so strongly on matters that I feel are so important that it feels bad to be encouraging the spread of them.  It feels wrong to me.

But that’s my job.  I don’t agree with everybody, and as a matter of free speech, it doesn’t matter whether I do.  My job is to sell people books they want, whether it’s Mein Kampf or The Anarchist Cookbook.  (Well, The Anarchist Cookbook is more likely to be stolen.  But you take my point.)  Not agreeing with, and feeling weird about spreading the ideas of certain books is just a job hazard.

However!

As it turns out, there’s a legal precedent now that should make my life so much easier!  No more queasy feeling in the stomach for me!  I’m claiming the booksellers’ right to the right of conscience rule.  Working booksellers, unite!  You have nothing to lose but your chains! When someone comes to your counter with Fleeced by Dick Morris, or Treason by Ann Coulter, JUST SAY NO.  Refuse to allow them to pay for it.  Stand firm.  Tell them they’ll have to sue you.  It’s the American way!  It doesn’t matter if you’re the only source for books for miles.  They’ll just have to make do without.

This isn’t just for bleeding-heart pansy liberals like myself, either.  Conservative booksellers, join me, and refuse to sell Al Gore, Michael Moore, and Goodnight Bush!  I have always suspected that your numbers are greater than most people think.  Prove it by affirming your right of conscience!

And when people tell you that as a bookseller, your job is to sell books, you just tell them they’re trampling all over your rights and your conscience, and stick out your tongue at them.  You don’t have to settle for threats of “just do your job, and if you don’t like it, find another one” anymore!  (If your boss won’t join our revolution, sue him or her too.)

Right of conscience YES!

Right of customers NO!

Who’s with me?

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4 comments so far

  1. A.S. King on

    I think this is genius. 🙂

  2. Doret on

    Good luck with that. It doesn’t bother me to show poltical authors I disagree with. Though I hate it when a customers ask for Bill O’reilly and they look at me for a reaction. I really want to say I don’t really care what you buy as long as you buy. That’s the only thing about being Black, customers will assume what your political affliation. I could be a Black republican.

  3. jmcc on

    I died a little bit inside each time I sold a copy of The Secret – if only I’d been emboldened by this post back then!

    This could lead to some interesting conversations with customers as to determining the purpose/duty/expectations of bookstores and booksellers.

  4. Rich Rennicks on

    Yeah, but you really have to own the store to take that stand without risking your employment. If you, and your employer, really want to protect Americans from the evils of ___________, just don’t stock the books in the first place.

    Or you could just take their “dirty” money (if that’s how you feel) and donate it to the political cause of your choice.


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