Sunday, August 24, 2008

Religion and Politics, 2.

In a followup to our earlier discussion on Religion and Politics, it's worth noting another outstanding op-ed from the L. A. Times on another CA Supremes decision.

The decision in question said that a physician could not deny treatment to a couple because of moral or ethical concerns about them.

Now, hold your horses. This decision does NOT say that a physician has to perform a treatment he or she find unethical. No one is going to be forced to perform abortions, for example.

What it DOES say is that if the physician chooses to perform the treatment, he or she can't discriminate against which patient he will or will not treat.

So, an endocrinologist can't decide he won't treat an obese diabetic because he doesn't approve of his lifestyle. A cardiologist can't deny treatment to a black man because he doesn't like blacks. An oncologist can't turn away a Muslim woman because he doesn't like Muslims. And a fertility doc can't turn away a lesbian couple because she doesn't like homos. At least, not in the state of California. In California, with a California license, you don't get to discriminate against your patients. If you want to discriminate, you have to move to a state where it's legal. California will not license you to discriminate.

The Op-Ed goes on,
The tradition of religious freedom in the United States is one of the founding ideals of this country. But as our framers envisioned it, religious freedom referred to a right to practice one's own religion free of interference from others. It did not refer to religiously based interference with the rights of others, who may have their own and different religious traditions. Even in the relatively religiously homogeneous era of the framers, such interference was not acceptable. It is even less so in 21st century America. With religious heterogeneity growing, the devotional demands of one group may be increasingly at odds with those of others.

Yet too often, our deference to religion in contemporary American society has allowed us to subordinate all other values. It has allowed us to routinely accept religiously motivated behaviors that we otherwise would have no reluctance to sanction and that, indeed, would be impermissible with any other justification.

So it's time to say "enough." In the United States, we all are free to practice our religion as we see fit, as long as we do not interfere with the well-being of others by imposing our religious views on them. If physicians or other healthcare providers who have religious objections to legal medical treatments will not at a minimum inform their patients about those treatments and refer them to others who will deliver them, they should act in a way that is consistent with their convictions and the well-being of their patients and find other professions.

Freedom of religion is a cherished value in American society. So is the right to be free of religious domination by others.

Susan Russell has a few comments on this issue too. Speaking about gay marriage, she said
"fair-minded Californians" should be concerned about some of the tactics and arguments of faith leaders on the other side.

"I will defend to my last breath the right of any of those folks to exercise their religion as they believe they are called to do it," she added. "But I'll resist to my last breath, vote, e-mail and blog their right to inflict their religious beliefs on the Constitution of the state of California."

Good job, LA Times. Well said, Susan Russell.

12 comments:

James said...

Susan can say in a few words what it takes me paragraphs to say!

Cany said...

The whole notion of discrimmination is antithetical to American Democracy, yet we observe it in almost all ways, every single day.

For years, the convocation before the Board of Supervisors here is ignored by me--a believer. It is hollow representation as it is clear that decisions of the members have no interest in God's ways, but sure do in the ways of lobbyists and power. I cannot sing that song. I also do not say the Pledge of Allegiance there. The "One God, indivisible..." is bunk in that setting and is "liberty and justice for all." I have my own revised wording.

Politics and religion should not be hyphenated (as they are).

Render unto God what is God's and render unto Caesar what is Caesar's.

David said...

Word.

Whenever I hear "conservatives" moan about freedom of religion, all I can think of is how they're complaining about someone getting in the way of their "freedom" to impose their religion on others.

Honestly, about one out of every two days, I'm a serious fan of the idea of America moving in the direction of "secular" Europe and all those religious people (OK, primarily Christians) becoming a small, ineffectual fringe cult...

"Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" ... Wankers.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

For years, I've fought the prayer-in-schools battle.

What seems to shut down proponents of public, adult-led prayer in public schools (the only kind that is prohibited) is to say "Okay, but if Christians can lead prayer in schools, then so can Jews, Muslims, and Wiccans. How are you going to like it when an Orthodox Jew leads prayers that don't mention Jesus? Or when your kids are praying to Allah several times a day with their Muslim teacher? Or when they address Gaia with their pagan teacher?"

Somehow they think freedom of religion applies ONLY to Christians.

JCF said...

So, an endocrinologist can't decide he won't treat an obese diabetic because he doesn't approve of his lifestyle.

An especially important example, from my POV. If an endo prescribes estrogens for biofemales and testosterone for biomales (usually for "change-of-life" reasons ;-/), that same endo can't then deny the hormones to transgendered people (for whom they are, arguably, even more "medically necessary")

dr.primrose said...

The California Supreme Court was interpreting the California civil rights acts, which provides in pertinent part: "All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever."

Of the examples given, this act would clearly apply to the "black man," the "Muslim woman," and the "lesbian couple." I have doubts that it would apply to the "obese diabetic." Maybe the "obese diabetic" would fall in the classification of "disability" or "medical condition" but that's a whole lot more iffy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Dr P. I would have thought either appropriate, but I forgot you lawyers need explicit lists. ;-)

In any case, the point is made.

IT

rick allen said...

"This decision does NOT say that a physician has to perform a treatment he or she find unethical. No one is going to be forced to perform abortions, for example. What it DOES say is that if the physician chooses to perform the treatment, he or she can't discriminate against which patient he will or will not treat."

So, if an obstetrician is willing to perform an abortion when necessary to save the mother's life, does that mean he or she is unlawfully discriminating by refusing to perform an abortion where the mother's life and health are not jeopardized by the pregnancy?

[not intended as a rhetorical question, by the way]

dr.primrose said...

According to the Los Angeles Times, "Early on a late September morning, if all goes according to plan, 1 million Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, evangelical Christians, Sikhs and Hindus will open their doors, march down their front walks and plant "Yes on Proposition 8" signs in their yards to show they support repealing same-sex marriage in California." California churches plan a big push against same-sex marriage.

The story also notes, "Other religious leaders vehemently disagree with Garlow and are working just as furiously to defeat Proposition 8. But their efforts have not been as carefully orchestrated as those of the initiative's religious supporters." Comments on this side are made by an Episcopal priest (Susan Russell), an MCC minister, and a rabbi.

Fred Schwartz said...

I do not mind mixing politics and religion but only when I get to determine the religion side of the hyphenation.;-} Otherwise, let's leave our religion(s) to home.

David |Däˈvēd| said...

Rick Allen (no relation I am sure) as I understand the facts presented, your answer is no.

If the ObGyns have set up the practice whereby they do not perform elective abortions, but only perform abortions in emergency situations to maintain the life or good health of the mother, it would be difficult to show discrimination regarding refusal of an abortion on an elective basis.

JCF said...

So, if an obstetrician is willing to perform an abortion when necessary to save the mother's life, does that mean he or she is unlawfully discriminating by refusing to perform an abortion where the mother's life and health are not jeopardized by the pregnancy?

Said obstretician may not be the best one qualified to determine whether the woman's life *OR* health are jeopardized, Rick.

I think objections to the "health-necessity" clause are reprehensible, BTW. They're based upon the misogynistic perception of women, that they're so childish or fickle or mendacious, that they'll make up health symptoms, or claim they need an abortion over a hangnail.

If a woman---usually post-first trimester, otherwise pregnancy-embracing---says her health REQUIRES an abortion, do you believe her, or not?

If one holds women in so much contempt as to disbelieve them, come out and say so!