Oct 27 2006

Arbiters of right and wrong: the postal workers

An injustice was about to happen. No one would accuse them of “just following orders”.

The high-minded resisters in question weren’t soldiers in Iraq refusing to carry out attacks in civilian areas against dug-in insurgents. It was far more local: Vancouver-area postal workers refused to deliver a pamphlet, The Prophetic Word, because it contained an article entitled “The Plague of this 21st Century: The Consequences of the sin of Homosexuality (AIDS)”.

Judging just from what’s in the Canadian Press report, it seems likely that the postal workers’ concerns were justified; the article in question is likely homophobic, if that term carries any generally accepted meaning.

The problem is, mail carriers aren’t allowed to determine on their own what constitutes “hate mail”. Even if they were, there is no regulation on the books that actually allows postal carriers to use their own discretion to deliver or not deliver any kinds of materials. There are laws governing what is considered to be obscene material – but in this case, The Prophetic Word didn’t violate that rule.

Was this a case of the street-level employees overreaching their responsibilities, or of the lower-rung workers making up for the ethical-professional lapse of the corporate-higher ups? It seems as though it wasn’t their call to make. In this case, they really can blame the messengers.

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