No Service

Occasionally, you see a sign in a restaurant or store window that reminds you of gentler times in America: “No Shoes. No Shirt. No Service.”

Such a statement of principle always struck me as reasonable. I find feet to be mankind’s least appealing appendages, and even less so when they’re dirty.

As for shirts, virtually everyone who goes topless in public has made a horrific style decision and deserves, at the very least, not to be served lunch or dinner. Mandatory shirt-wearing seems a small price to pay to protect cleanliness, public decency and the psyches of small children.

Of course, that was then in America. Now, there’s so much more to worry about.

Like political affiliation. The Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, made national headlines last week when its owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, refused to serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family.

Wilkinson told the Washington Post, “I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. (But) this feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”

Right. Because refusing to serve a cheeseboard to President Trump’s spokeswoman ranks beside Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus in 1955 Alabama.

The Red Hen story came a couple weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. Phillips, a Christian who owns the Masterpiece Cakeshop, told Charlie Craig and David Mullins that gay marriage violated his religious beliefs.

The couple bought a wedding cake elsewhere, then complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. That commission’s poor handling of the case formed the basis of a narrow Supreme Court decision that gave baker Phillips a victory – after six years of litigation.

Which brings us to the local story of Nicole Arteaga and her treatment at the hands of a Peoria Walgreens pharmacist.

Arteaga, informed by her doctor that her pregnancy would inevitably end in miscarriage, went to Walgreens on June 21st with a prescription for a pill to terminate her pregnancy.

Instead, she got a speech from the pharmacist, who explained Arizona’s “conscience clause” for medical professionals – a law that, among other protections, allows pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription meant to terminate or prevent a pregnancy.

According to Walgreens, company policy “allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection. At the same time, they are also required to refer the prescription to another pharmacist or manager on duty to meet the patient’s needs in a timely manner.”

Arteaga says she was sent across town and didn’t get her prescription filled until 24 hours later. Her complaint to the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy in under investigation. Walgreens is also reviewing what happened.

What do all three stories have in common?

The belief that obedience to personal morality justifies discriminatory behavior. Imagine an America where every business, every business owner and every employee put their own moral or religious code before everyone else’s right to equal treatment.

 Where would it end? Democrat restaurants and Republican restaurants? Dick’s Sporting Goods employees who refuse to ring up football gear because they abhor violence? A Jewish baker who refuses to sell challah to anyone who worships Allah?

Or we could go the other way and embrace allowing everyone to serve only those with whom they agree. Our problem then would be finding a window big enough for the sign:

No Shoes. No Shirt. No Appropriate Political Beliefs. No Straight Marriage. No Pro-Life Prescription. No Service.

 David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact