Last week, I talked about the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to create the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. Because of some of the controversy surrounding it, I wanted to revisit the topic.
The division was created to protect doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers “from being coerced into participating in activities that violate their consciences.” That would include such medical procedures as abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide.
The editors at the New York Times argued that this additional governmental agency was unnecessary. They argued that Christians have “unfounded fears” about this issue. David French in a recent response finds that amusing since the Supreme Court (during this latest session) is considering two cases that involve “demands by state authorities that Christians violate their conscience.”
The first is the case of Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop. The state of Colorado wanted to force him to use his artistic talents to design a cake for a homosexual wedding. The second is a case out of California that is attempting to force a pro-life pregnancy resource center to advertise free or low-cost abortions. Both of these cases want to compel Christians to violate their conscience.
The New York Times also attempts to characterize the issue as the Bible versus the Hippocratic Oath. Really it is a battle between constitutionally guaranteed liberties versus liberal, progressive public policies.
Michael Berry (First Liberty Institute) reminds liberals that not so long ago they believed in conscience protections. In the 1960s, the Supreme Court acknowledged that an individual who was a conscientious objector could “claim the status based only on moral objections, rather than religious beliefs.” Back then, liberals “proudly positioned themselves on the front lines of expanding conscience rights.”
They should do so again today.