In Defense of Religious Bioethics

American Journal of Bioethics, December, Vol. 12, No. 12, 2012

Judah Goldberg, Alan Jotkowitz

In the first year of a celebrated graduate program in bioethics, one of us wrote a short essay about physician-assisted suicide that claimed that murder is not only a breach of rights, but also a “grave affront to all human existence as well as to He who grants life.”  Well, that last part earned me a predictable scribble on the margins of my returned paper, something to the effect of, “What if someone does not believe in a Giver of life?”
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What Is Religious Freedom?

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

Reproduced with permission

Robert P. George*

In its fullest and most robust sense, religion is the human person’s being in right relation to the divine. All of us have a duty, in conscience, to seek the truth and to honor the freedom of all men and women everywhere to do the same.

When the US Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998, it recognized that religious liberty and the freedom of conscience are in the front rank of the essential human rights whose protection, in every country, merits the solicitude of the United States in its foreign policy. Therefore, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, of which I became chair yesterday, was created by the act to monitor the state of these precious rights around the world.

But why is religious freedom so essential? Why does it merit such heightened concern by citizens and policymakers alike? In order to answer those questions, we should begin with a still more basic question. What is religion? [Full text]

New book questions preferential treatment of religious liberty

New book questions preferential treatment of religious libertyBook 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 . . .


American Cardinals speak forcefully on freedom of conscience and religion

Timothy Cardinal Dolan,  Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) addressed the John Carroll Society in Washington, D.C. on the theme of “Let Religious Freedom Ring.”  Cardinal Dolan stated that “freedom of religion has been the driving force of almost every enlightened, un-shackling, noble cause in American history,” and that defence of religious freedom is “the quintessential American cause, the first line in the defense of and protection of human rights.”[Zenit] [My Catholic Standard]  During thekeynote address at the Catholic Perspectives on Religious Liberty symposium at Georgetown University, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. argued that to relegate religion to the private sphere and silence moral teaching in public is dangerous because religious belief is “the conscience of society.” [CNS]