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]

Warning against anti-Shari laws

Robert K. Vischer of St. Thomas University in Minneapolis warns against The Dangers of Anti-Sharia Laws in First Things.  Such legislation, he says, “. . . proposes an unconstitutional double standard.”  The attacks on the application of Sharia by American courts, which also apply denominational and private prinicples when adjudicating contract disputes, “fan the flames of religious intolerance while nurturing public acceptance of the notion that the religious commitments of our citizens have no place in our courts.”

Canon law and biblical principles are not dirty words in the American court system,” writes Professor Vischer, “and Sharia should not be either.”