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Thu 19 Feb 2015
You will likely have heard of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s (CPS) draft human rights policy, which would (in its current form) restrict physicians’ rights to freedom of conscience and religion. The new policy would require physicians with moral or religious objections to certain procedures (like abortion or euthanasia) to nevertheless facilitate such procedures by referring patients to a doctor willing to conduct such procedures—effectively forcing dissenting physicians to act in ways contrary to conscience, even though these rights are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The CPSO is accepting comments from the public on the draft policy until February 20, 2015—which is tomorrow (Friday). I encourage you to make your concerns known by visiting their website here. To that end, I’m posting below the letter I have sent the CPSO. Feel free to draw attention to some of the same issues in your own letters.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons in Saskatchewan (CPSS) recently published a similar draft policy. I’ll be adapting my letter to the CPSO accordingly, and sending one to them as well. I hope you will too. You can contact the CPSS at email@example.com.
An open letter to the CPSO on their draft human rights policy
To whom it may concern:
I am writing to express my deep concern over the draft human rights policy released by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario in late 2014. As it currently stands, the policy would compel physicians to act contrary to their consciences, forcing countless doctors to provide services, or facilitate the provision of services, which they consider wrong for moral or religious reasons.
This is reprehensible.
Not only does such a policy ignore the basic rights of physicians, it also undermines confidence in the medical system at large. By forcing physicians to act in ways they consider immoral and unethical, the CPSO signals to wider Canadian society that it is not concerned about the personal integrity of its members. In fact, it suggests the CPSO considers personal integrity something to be discouraged among physicians.
In Canada, we are privileged to enjoy a number of rights and freedoms. I am pleased to see the CPSO committing itself to upholding these rights by producing a draft human rights policy. I am aghast, however, to see that a document purportedly devoted to respecting these rights nevertheless severely undermines the rights of physicians.
The draft policy correctly notes that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects physicians’ right to freedom of conscience and religion, but it is clear that the policy fails to appreciate the full implications of this right. Physicians ought not be forced to refer patients for treatments that the physicians, for reasons of conscience or religion, find objectionable. To require otherwise is to make the objecting physician a party to the treatment he finds objectionable
It’s all very good to say that physicians have the right to freedom of religion and conscience, but it must be further recognized that these freedoms apply not only to thought but also to action. It is not enough to say “Alright, you may believe such and such. You do not need to perform the act yourself, but you must refer patients to someone who will.” If, for example, a physician is opposed to abortion or assisted suicide for reasons of conscience or religion, forcing them to refer a patient for such a procedure impinges directly on the physician’s freedom. The physician will understand herself morally culpable for the final act, in that she facilitated its being carried out. She will have been forced to act in a way contrary to conscience.
As the Nova Scotia Supreme Court recently reminded us, and as the CPSO’s draft policy itself notes, rights in Canada are not hierarchical. When the rights of one individual come into competition with the rights of another, they are to be balanced. “If there are competing rights the issue is whether there are alternative measures by which both rights can be accommodated,” Justice Jamie Campbell writes in his judgment on TWU vs. NSBS. “That involves a consideration or whether one right has been disproportionately affected or the other disproportionately privileged.”
It seems clear that, if the CPSO adopts its draft policy without significant alteration, then the rights of physicians to freedom of conscience and religion will be disproportionately affected—and thus, that their freedom will be infringed upon. As Justice Campbell explains, “An infringement is made out when the claimant sincerely maintains a belief or practice that has a nexus with religion, and the impugned measure interferes with the claimant’s ability to act in accordance with those beliefs in a way that is more than trivial or insubstantial. Trivial or insubstantial interference is interference that does not threaten the belief or conduct.”
Requiring physicians to facilitate a treatment they consider morally objectionable, perhaps even evil, is neither trivial nor insubstantial. Consequently, the draft policy as it stands infringes upon physicians’ rights.
The CPSO should rewrite its draft policy to more clearly protect the freedoms of physicians, including their right to act in accordance with conscience in choosing not to refer patients for treatments they find morally objectionable.
Sincere good wishes,
Mon 15 Apr 2013
Posted by Mathew Block under Articles, Main
You may have heard about the murder trial of Kermit Gosnell recently, the abortion provider charged with the murder of one patient and seven babies. If so, it’s probably thanks to a social media campaign last week which exposed mainstream media’s silence on the subject. I examine the details in a how Twitter—yes, Twitter—brought the subject to the forefront, effectively shaming the news media into covering the story. It’s in my post “Twitter Users Force Big Media to Cover Abortion Doctor’s Trial.”
After weeks of growing frustration, pro-lifers took to Twitter en masse Friday to express disbelief and outrage over media silence on the multiple-murder trial of American abortion provider Kermit Gosnell. And the media, at least some of it, seems to be listening.
I describe the immediate reaction by the media, and some publications’ admission of negligence in reporting the case (and their promise to do better). But as I note at the end:
It seems, then, that the Tweetfest has succeeded in its goal of making the mainstream media end its blackout of the Gosnell trial. Powers’ original column and the subsequent Twitter campaign which followed it might seem like a story in itself: “Social media little-guys make big news listen,” and all that. But the real story here is that it took a Twitter campaign at all; major news outlets should have been covering this trial from the get-go.
Sun 22 Nov 2009
What exactly is it that gets political officials so riled up when their churches take them to task over the disconnect between what they claim to profess and what they publicly practice? Recently down in the United States, Congressman Patrick Kennedy has been denied the privilege of taking Holy Communion in Roman Catholic churches over his stance on abortion. The issue is simple logic:
- Roman Catholics only allow practising Roman Catholics in good standing to take communion.
- To be a practising Roman Catholic in good standing, one must follow all the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
- Congressman Patrick Kennedy refuses to follow all the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
- Therefore Congressman Kennedy cannot be a practising Roman Catholic in good standing.
- Therefore the Roman Catholic Church cannot commune him.
The Congressman is certainly entitled to his own beliefs. But he is not entitled to force those beliefs upon a church body that does not agree. Nor can he force the church to change its official practice (regarding who should be communed) to accommodate his own heterodox beliefs.
This is certainly not the first time we’ve seen public leaders refused communion or threatened with excommunication for claiming allegiance to a church while acting in direct opposition to that church’s teachings. Here’s a mere glimpse at some of the actions taken by the Roman Catholic Church in recent history:
- June 2004 – Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary (Canada) publishes a pastoral letter decrying the “moral incoherence” of Prime Minister Paul Martin on such issues as homosexual marriage and abortion. The Bishop had previously called to task then Prime Minister Jean Chretien and then Conservative Party leader Joe Clark, and announced he would not serve them communion. He had even suggested that he himself would not preside at Clark’s funeral if the latter preceded him.
- March 2007 – Bishop Marcelino Hernandez announces that any Mexican politicians who vote in favour of a bill to legalize abortion will be excommunicated.
- May 2007 – Pope Benedict XVI issues a warning to Catholic politicians worldwide who deliberately flout the church’s position on abortion.
- March 2008 – Archbishop Terrance Prendergast, Archbishop of Canada’s capital city Ottawa, says he would “refuse communion to any politician who “obstinately” supports access to abortion, but only if he or she cannot be persuaded to stand down.”
- September 2009 – Polish bishops issue a warning to politicians that if they support abortion, they face excommunication.
- November 2009 – Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, spokesman for Spain’s Bishops’ Conference, announces that any politicians who vote in favour of a bill to liberalize of abortion laws in the country will be automatically excommunicated and refused communion.
Mon 10 Aug 2009
Posted by Mathew Block under Lutheran Leanings, Main
Ever wonder what youth in the Lutheran church are thinking? Wonder no more. Back in June, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod released the results of a survey they took at their 2007 National Youth Gathering. I’ve gathered a bit of the more interesting results below to consider. Some of it is encouraging. Some is simply concerning.
Personal Faith Life
When asked how much time they spent per week in personal Bible study and devotion, the largest response by far was “very little/almost never.” In fact, 47.6% of 18 year olds, 48.2% of 15 year olds, 51.4% of 16 year olds, 55.5% of 17 year olds and a disheartening 55.5% of 19 year olds checked that category. Another 29.7% to 40.5% chose the next lowest option: 30-60 minutes per week. 6.1% to 10% chose 61-120 minutes while only 1.7% to 4.4% checked more than 2 hours.
25.6% to 33.3% of teens responded they speak to parents/family about God and spiritual matters ‘often’. 41% to 46.8% said ‘sometimes’. 13.3 to 22.7% said ‘rarely’ while 5% to 7% said ‘never’.
Only 52.1% to 58.3% of teens agreed pre-marital sex was always wrong. An encouraging 77% of 15 year olds said they never engaged in sexual intercourse, but that number progressively drops to a dismal 48.3% among 19 year olds.
Only 58.7% to 67.2% were certain that homosexuality was a sin according to God’s Word and therefore wrong.
An encouraging 86.5% to 91.4% responded that they never do drugs. 64.2% to 79.3% insisted they had not once been drunk in the past 12 months.
69.1% to 70.3% believed abortion was definitely wrong and identified themselves as ‘pro-life’. 16.9 to 21.4% believed a woman should have the right to choose and identified themselves as ‘pro-choice’.
17.3% to 24.9% preferred “traditional, liturgical worship, using hymns pretty much out of a hymnal.” 24.9% to 31.9% preferred “contemporary music with praise band usually singing praise choruses. Never out of a hymnal.” The largest category at 39.9% to 43.4% preferred “a mixture of old and new” while 8.3% to 11% were unsure what they preferred.
On the subject of church fellowship, a disappointing 18.3% to 23.3% believed “all religions are pretty much alike.” 15.3% to 22.3% believed Lutherans should associate only with other Lutherans. 47.8% to 58.3% affirmed belief in a larger catholic understanding of Christian unity.
On the issue of female ordination, 39.8% to 50% believed it was contrary to God’s Word. 21.1% to 30.6% believed the issue should continue to be studied and held up to God’s Word. 8.3% to 14.9% suggested the official LCMS position was definitely wrong, while 15% to 24.2% admitted they just didn’t know.
41.5% to 47.9% were “really not interested” in considering a career in professional church work. Another 18.3% to 23.4% had “never really thought about it.”
Most teens considered their home congregation generally unwilling to consider any change even if “a good, new idea comes along.” 15.7% to 23.1% felt their home church “wouldn’t change a light bulb if they didn’t have to” while an additional 35.3% to 42.2% felt their home congregation was unsympathetic towards change but that “sometimes they can be convinced.”
Only 17.1% to 23.3% and 5% to 12.1% thought their home congregation was either “good or “excellent, respectively, involving youth in congregational decision making.
That’s just some of the numbers that caught my eye. It’s time to consider results like this to discern where we’re succeeding and where we’re failing, to re-evaluate methods which my be flawed and support methods which may be working.
Plenty to think about and plenty to pray about in any event. Read the full results of the survey at LCMS’ website.