Protect rights for health workers

Rebecca Mastee

A recent viewpoint column regarding Michigan Senate Bill 136, the Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act, proved a disservice to the LSJ and its readers. The column was factually inaccurate and relied on scare tactics by highlighting a case in Ireland which, of course, has different laws than the United States. Let’s set the record straight about SB 136.

The purpose of the bill is to maintain civil liberties and conscience rights that our nation has cherished for over 200 years. Unfortunately, these constitutional rights are slowly eroding as government mandates are forcing individuals and institutions to act contrary to their religious teachings. . . . [Read more]

Religion: A Public or a Private Right?

Originally appeared in  Public Discourse:  Ethics, Law, and the Common Good
Online journal of the Witherspoon  Institute of Princeton, NJ

 Susan Hanssen*

Twentieth-century religious liberty jurisprudence developed on the far side of a great historic chasm that separates us from the traditional definition of religion. Between Americans in 2012 and the American founders in 1776 stand William James and the beginnings of the “science of comparative religions.” If we are to grasp the founders’ idea of a natural right to religious liberty, we must perform a labor of historical imagination and recover the longstanding definition of religion that has been lost to us.

The classic book that launched the social scientific approach to the study of religion was James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience (1903). The book was initially his series of lectures at the University of Edinburgh—the prestigious Gifford Lectures. James deliberately refused to accept the usual title “Gifford Lectures in Natural Theology” for his series of talks and chose instead to call them lectures in “Natural Religion.” He assumed that religion was not, as the word “theology” implied, subject to any rational justification. Rather, he saw religion as essentially experiential and the study of religion as essentially empirical—the collection of a variety of accounts of wildly divergent spiritual experiences. . . [Read more]

Christian Medical Professionals support Alberta bill

News Release

Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS)

The Calgary and Edmonton Chapters of the Christian Medical and  Dental Society of Canada are in support of Bill 212, The Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act, which would protect healthcare workers’ conscience rights.

Increasingly, we hear of institutions and organizations placing pressure on healthcare     workers to act contrary to their convictions, especially as technological advances     challenge traditional ethical boundaries. Canada has a long history of recognizing the     rights of freedom of conscience; however, healthcare workers are feeling increasingly     vulnerable. Many are calling for explicit legislation to protect them from being required  to refer for or participate directly or indirectly in medical procedures or treatments  that violate their convictions without fear of discrimination, dismissal, or harassment.

Certainly, physicians and other healthcare workers must provide care in  life-threatening emergencies to all people regardless of ethnic origin, creed, etc.: this  is consistent with the Hippocratic tradition. Also in keeping with the Hippocratic tradition is the inviolable tenet that human life is sacred, regardless of stage.  Consequently, those who solemnly hold these principles must not be pressured to act contrary to them as they are foundational to the integrity of the profession and the trust of the public. In matters of choice, healthcare workers are positioned to fully inform patients of all their legal options, but they must not be obligated to participate in a patient’s choice of treatment.

CMDS desires an open discussion of the issue of conscience-protection legislation and, to this end, invites healthcare workers to bring their concerns to the attention of their professional organizations, politicians, and members of the public.

For further information: In Calgary, contact Dr. W. Joseph Askin at 236-1500 In Edmonton, contact Dr. Gunnar Myrholm at 465-0951

Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) #26, 7740 18 St. S.E. Calgary, AB T2C 2N5 Tel:  (403) 236-1500 Fax (403) 236-2839


Developments in Ireland

The Irish government has promised to introduce legislation and regulations concerning abortion in July. [Irish Independent] Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has rejected motions seeking the group’s approval of regulations for circumstances in which there is a “real and substantial risk to the mother,” abortion in the case of rape or incest, and abortion when a foetus is diagnosed to have a fatal abnormality. The vote at the IMO annual conference reflects sharply different views from the results of some Irish public opinion polls, and contrasts with a 2011 poll that found 75% of 300 Irish general practitioners surveyed supported some form of legalization of abortion.[Irish Independent]


Australian Medical Association Submission to the Tasmanian Government

On the law governing termination of pregnancy


The Tasmanian branch of the Australian Medical Association expressed qualified support for statutory legalization of abortion in a submission to the Tasmanian state government concerning its proposed Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013.  However, the Association also emphasized its opposition to parts of the proposed bill that would suppress freedom of conscience among physicians.  Those parts of the submission are reproduced below. [Read more . . .]

The uneasy (and changing) relationship of health care and religion in our legal system

Robert K. Vischer

Theor Med Bioeth. 2013 Apr;34(2):161-70. doi: 10.1007/s11017-013-9248-2. PubMed PMID: 23546737


This article provides a brief introduction to the interplay between law and religion in the health care context. First, I address the extent to which the commitments of a faith tradition may be written into laws that bind all citizens, including those who do not share those commitments. Second, I discuss the law’s accommodation of the faith commitments of individual health care providers—hardly a static inquiry, as the degree of accommodation is increasingly contested. Third, I expand the discussion to include institutional health care providers, arguing that the legal system’s resistance to accommodating the morally distinct identities of institutional providers reflects a short-sighted view of the liberty of conscience. Finally, I offer some tentative thoughts about why these dynamics become even more complicated in the context of Islamic health care providers. [Full Text]

New book questions preferential treatment of religious liberty

Book Review

Why Tolerate Religion?
Brian Leiter
Princeton University Press, 2012, 192 pp. ISBN: 9780691153612

University of Chicago News Office

The Western democratic practice of singling out religious liberty for special treatment under the law is not in sync with the world we live in today, argues University of Chicago Law School professor Brian Leiter in his new book,Why Tolerate Religion?

All people, both religious and non-religious, maintain core beliefs about what they feel they absolutely must do— a category Leiter calls “claims of conscience.” In the book, Leiter, the Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence, explores whether there are good reasons for the tendency to grant legal exemptions to religious claims of conscience while largely rejecting non-religious claims.

“The current status quo is predicated on a fundamental inequality,” Leiter said. For example, he says a boy might be permitted to carry a dagger to school as part of his Sikh religion, but the same dagger would not be allowed if it were part of a family tradition.

“Namely, your claim of conscience counts if it is based in religion,” Leiter said. “My claim of conscience doesn’t count if it is not based in religion. That, it seems to me, is a pernicious and indefensible inequality in the existing legal regime.”  Read more . . .