At this culinary moment it’s most appropriate for me to ponder the sad plight of Stephen Philip Marshall, a vegan prisoner in Multnomah County’s Justice Center jail, whose request for meals with no meat, eggs, or dairy products has been turned down.
Outrageous! The chant “Feed the Portland Vegan! Feed the Portland Vegan!” echoes in my not-yet-out-of-the-sixties brain as the smell of a Now & Zen wheat gluten Unturkey cooking in our oven wafts through the house (we ate Thanksgiving dinner at the home of some friends and today I got an irresistible craving for our traditional holiday fare).
As the Portland Oregonian reports in “Cuisine is lean for vegan in county jail,” the jail will only provide special meals for religious or medical reasons. Marshall isn’t religious but believes that killing animals for food is cruel.
So do I. Guess I had better stay out of jail if I want to keep my weight up, though I’ve been a member of an organized religious group that espouses vegetarianism, so probably I’d have better luck getting a non-meaty meal from my captors.
It’s ridiculous for a jail to make a distinction between religious and non-religious motivations for sticking to a vegan diet. The last time I ordered a special meal on an airline (back in the days when they actually served meals to passengers) I wasn’t asked why I wanted to eat vegetarian.
Hopefully a prisoner support group aiding Marshall, the ominously-named Anarchist Black Cross Network, will plead his case on the basis that government shouldn’t discriminate on religious grounds.
Marshall’s morality is founded on a religion of one, his own sense of right and wrong. Why should that count for less in the eyes of the Multnomah County jail than another religion such as Buddhism? The number of adherents shouldn’t determine whether one faith is deemed worthy of special meals and another faith isn’t.
Seemingly Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito would be on Marshall’s side, since he wrote an opinion arguing that an evangelical group had the right to provide information about after-school meetings on the same terms as secular groups.
OK. If what’s permitted for a secular group should be permitted for a religious group, then by the same reasoning a diet allowed for a religious individual should be allowed for a secular individual.
Along these lines, the One True B!x has an interesting take on individual versus institutional morality in his “the only thing that matters is what we do” post—which is an extended take on a comment he left on my recent rant about intelligent designers being out to Christianize America. Here’s an excerpt:
As I said in my comment on Hines' post (and restated here), I think freely choosing to live a life in which you are respectful, considerate, and aware is more powerful (more beautiful, really) than doing so because some higher power told you it was the right way to be -- let alone doing so because you fear being punished by that higher power.
Personally (and that's what all of this comes down to, in the end, for all parties), I find the capacity for choice, and not hopes or fears about what might or might not come after this life, to be a motivator more worthy of the notion of "dignity."
Right on, brother. Feed the Portland vegan!