It is every freelance translator’s wish to maximize his/her incomes, which means that the situations in which a translator refuses to work on a project are quite exceptional. The most common reason for rejecting a translation project is the lack of expertise in the field of the project. This is, in fact, the very first lesson of translation ethics ”when you’re not sure you can handle a certain text, don’t agree to work on it”. There are, however, other situations in which someone should reject working on a project.
For instance, I would definitely think twice before translating propaganda texts written by political or economic organizations (I exclude marketing texts from this category). I would never translate texts written by extremist organizations or parties and I would definitely reject translating a text promoting hate, racism or antisemitism. Some might argue that the translator is anonymous and no-one will find out who performed the translation. This is true, however, working on such a project actually means promoting the message and being involved in the process. Not only are you working on a text that is against your moral principles, but also helping conveying a ”polluting” message.
I would also refuse to work on a project if the source text was incomprehensible. Sometimes, the text is so badly written that it would be impossible to understand it, let alone translate it. Don’t forget that Murphy’s law ”Garbage in, garbage out” applies to translations as well.
These are only a couple examples of situations which would make me reject a translation. I am very curious to find out what other translators have to say about this topic, this is why I would like to have your input in the comment section :).