How should a liberal democracy react to conscientious objection claims

Panel 3: Theological and Religious Perspectives on Conscience

Royal Irish Academy Symposium

Chair:

  • Mary McAleese, MRIA, Professor of Children, Law and Religion, University of Glasgow

Panellists:

  • Professor Linda Hogan, Trinity College Dublin
  • Professor David Albert Jones, The Anscombe Bioethics Centre
  • Professor David Novak, University of Toronto

Religious and theological conceptions of conscience; role of conscientious objection within faith traditions; freedom of religion, freedom within religion. Resistance motivated by faith and conscience: military service, health care.


Royal Irish Academy: How should a liberal democracy react to conscientious objection claims

The Independence of Judicial Conscience

Barry W. Bussey

The Independence of Judicial Conscience

. . . Competence and character are no longer the sole criteria for evaluating a judicial nominee; candidates face a climate which demands they have the “correct” moral opinions on fundamental human rights issues. Those
issues include abortion, marriage, and the euphemistically-termed Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). . . to disregard the judicial conscience is to compromise the dignity of the judge, the worth of her convictions, the fullness of her humanity. Even more, it undermines the very essence of what distinguishes a democratic society characterized by diversity, inclusion, and freedom.


Bussey BW. The Independence of Judicial Conscience. J Christian Legal Thought. 2019; 9(2): 34-37.

Professionalism eliminates religion as a proper tool for doctors rendering advice to patients

Udo Schuklenk

Professionalism eliminates religion as a proper tool for doctors rendering advice to patients

Abstract:Religious considerations and language do not typically belong in the professional advice rendered by a doctor to a patient. Among the rationales mounted by Greenblum and Hubbard in support of that conclusion is that religious considerations and language are incompatible with the role of doctors as public officials.1 Much as I agree with their conclusion, I take issue with this particular aspect of their analysis. It seems based on a mischaracterisation of what societal role doctors fulfil, qua doctors. What obliges doctors to communicate by means of content that is expressed in public reason-based language is not that they are public officials. Doctors as doctors are not necessarily public officials. Rather, doctors have such obligations, because they are professionals. Unlike public officials doctors are part of a profession that is to a significant extent self-governing. This holds true for all professions. The …

Responding to religious patients: why physicians have no business doing theology. Jake Greenblum Ryan K Hubbard Journal of Medical Ethics 2019; – Published Online First: 20 Jun 2019. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2019-105452


Schuklenk U. Professionalism eliminates religion as a proper tool for doctors rendering advice to patients. J Medical Ethics. 2019 Sep 12. pii: medethics-2019-105703. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2019-105703. [Epub ahead of print]

Book Review: Religious Exemptions

Jacqueline Lang

Book Review: Religious Exemptions

Edited by Kevin Vallier and Michael Weber, New York, NY, Oxford University Press, 2018, 328 pp., £61 (hardback), ISBN: 9780190666187

An exemption from legal requirements is a right to be excluded from specific law that, to all intents and purposes, have general application. A religious exemption broadly, is an exemption on religious or conscientious grounds. Of course, an exemption can function in any positive legal framework and at any time. It can exist in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia or any oppressive regime we care to consider. . .

Religious Exemptions, edited by Kevin Vallier and Michael Weber, contains fourteen chapters by authors analysing the concept of a religious exemption in the context of recent accretions in contemporary American positive law. The text explores a variety of issues, including vaccine refusal, commercial accommodations, exemption from equality of the sexes, same-sex marriage and trial proceedings. Whereas, in the past, religious exemptions were limited in scope, governing such narrow subjects a pacifist exemptions against compulsory military service and certain small religious exemptions to education, now, large sectors of religious and conscientious objectors seek exemptions from an ever-burgeoning catalogue of state-mandated duties to participate in a wide range of contentious matters from abortion and euthanasia to same-sex marriage. In modem times, the laws newly introduced incur significant harm to whole sections of the community. A Muslim or Christian objector to same-sex marriage, for example, might never find employment in his field because he is automatically classified as guilty of hate and unlawful discrimination. . .


Lang J.  Book Review: Religious exemptions.  New Bioethics 2019 Sep; 25(3): 290-292, DOI:10.1080/20502877.2019.1649867

Book Review: The Conscience Wars; Rethinking the Balance between Religion, Identity, and Equality

Christopher Cowley

Conscience Wars

Edited by Susanna Mancini and Michel Rosenfeld. Pp. 493. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2018. £76. ISBN: 978-1107173309>

This volume is based on a conference held at the Cardozo School of Law in ew York in 2015, and brings together American and European law academics to discuss the distinctive ways in which conscience claims have ‘spread’ in the public discourse over the last two or three decades. Conscientious objection used to be an individual matter for e.g. draftees and doctors, aimed at recusing oneself from complicity with evil, in contrast to civil disobedience, which was a larger collective movement aimed at changing public opinion and the law. These days, however, conscience seems to be in the news much more, mostly associated with organized religious conservative agendas – hence the title’s reference to a ‘war’ playing out in parallel to the efforts in and around a country’s legislature. Perhaps the most famous recent case of mobilized public conscience was that of the US Supreme Court case of Burwell u Hobby Lobby (2014), in which the owners of a company successfully challenged the legal requirement (under the 2010 Affordable Care Act) that the company fund contraception for its female employees. The owners’ objection was religious, and was framed in terms of their right to religious expression. . .


Cowley C.  Book Review: The Conscience Wars; Rethinking the Balance between Religion, Identity, and Equality. New Bioethics. 2019 Sep; 25(3): 286-289, DOI:10.1080/20502877.2019.1647039

Responding to religious patients: why physicians have no business doing theology

Jake Greenblum, Ryan K. Hubbard

Journal of Medical Ethics

Abstract: A survey of the recent literature suggests that physicians should engage religious patients on religious grounds when the patient cites religious considerations for a medical decision. We offer two arguments that physicians ought to avoid engaging patients in this manner. The first is the Public Reason Argument. We explain why physicians are relevantly akin to public officials. This suggests that it is not the physician’s proper role to engage in religious deliberation. This is because the public character of a physician’s role binds him/her to public reason, which precludes the use of religious considerations. The second argument is the Fiduciary Argument. We show that the patient-physician relationship is a fiduciary relationship, which suggests that the patient has the clinical expectation that physicians limit themselves to medical considerations. Since engaging in religious deliberations lies outside this set of considerations, such engagement undermines trust and therefore damages the patient-physician relationship.


Greenblum J, Ryan K ubbard RK. Responding to religious patients: why physicians have no business doing theology. J Med Ethics 2019;45:705-710. Published Online First: 20 Jun 2019. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2019-105452

Not here: Catholic Hospital Systems and the Restriction Against Transgender Healthcare

Eric Plemons

Not here: Catholic Hospital Systems and the Restriction Against Transgender Healthcare

. . . Over the past five years, however, public and
private health insurance coverage for transition-related surgery has increased exponentially.2 As available funds have increased, so has demand for services.3 American institutions are now struggling to meet a growing demand for competent, efficient, and effective transgender
healthcare that they had denied for decades. . . . The rapid expansion of Catholic hospitals is a concern for transgender people, their advocates, and the insurers who provide their health coverage because Catholic hospitals do not provide transition-related care. . .


Plemons E. Not here: Catholic Hospital Systems and the Restriction Against Transgender Healthcare. Crosscurrents. 2018 Dec; 68(4): 533-549.

Divisions, New and Old — Conscience and Religious Freedom at HHS

Lisa H. Harris

NEJM

January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the creation of its Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, explaining that it will allow HHS’s Office of Civil Rights to “more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom” and will ensure that “no one is coerced into participating in activities that would violate their consciences, such as abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide.”1 Responses were as expected: religious conservatives hailed the new division as a needed intervention; public health and clinical leaders and advocates decried it, worrying about its impact on access to care and harm to patients.

HHS leaders’ comments to date suggest that they are uninterested in discrimination against health care providers whose consciences compel them to provide care, and uninterested in injuries to patients caused by care refusals. This framing makes conscience yet another issue dividing Americans, largely along partisan lines.


Harris LH.  Divisions, New and Old — Conscience and Religious Freedom at HHS. N Eng J Med 2018 Apr 12;378(15):1369-1371. doi: 10.1056/NEJMp1801154. Epub 2018 Mar 14

The status of the human embryo in various religions

William Neaves

Development

Abstract

Research into human development involves the use of human embryos and their derivative cells and tissues. How religions view the human embryo depends on beliefs about ensoulment and the inception of personhood, and science can neither prove nor refute the teaching of those religions that consider the zygote to be a human person with an immortal soul. This Spotlight article discusses some of the dominant themes that have emerged with regard to how different religions view the human embryo, with a focus on the Christian faith as well as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic perspectives.


Neaves W. The status of the human embryo in various religions. Development 2017 144: 2541-2543; doi: 10.1242/dev.151886

The Physician and Community of Faithful in the Integrated Care of the Mentally Ill: An Orthodox Christian Discussion of the Physician’s Moral and Professional Obligations

Mariana Cuceu, Theodote Pontikes

Christian Bioethics

Abstract:  This article presents the case of a Romanian Orthodox Christian patient in the United States suffering from bipolar disorder. The patient had no family in the United States, and a community of parishioners from the Romanian Orthodox Church, including one of the authors, Mariana Cuceu (MC), cared for him after he was discharged from a psychiatric ward. The case serves as a starting point for exploring the duty of physicians not only to avoid harm but to do good, the importance of coordinating care for such patients and attending to their religious and spiritual needs, as well as the role of the community of Orthodox Christian faithful in responding to the command that we love one another.

 Cuceu M,  PontikesT.  The Physician and Community of Faithful in the Integrated Care of the Mentally Ill: An Orthodox Christian Discussion of the Physician’s Moral and Professional Obligations. Christ Bioeth (2016) 22 (3): 301-314 doi:10.1093/cb/cbw010