Conscience Rights and Resisting Governments Telling Us What to Think

There is now a battle in Ontario to win back conscience rights for physicians. Various groups, from the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto are engaged in this battle.

This is a fight we must not lose. It goes much further than the rights of doctors. It really has to do with whether we are not only going to resist governments telling us what to think but also punishing us for daring to express and act on our reasonable views. If we lose this battle we are opening the floodgates to totalitarianism.

In Ontario, unlike other provinces, physicians must agree to refer patients who request euthanasia, which was made legal last June. None can be forced to actually kill a patient but the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), the province’s regulating body says referral is a must. The patient must come first, the college along with the provincial government says.

The CPSO believes that there is a social contract that places patients’ interests first. Surely there must be limits here. A doctor’s role is to “first do no harm” and clearly, killing a patient is the ultimate harm. But, to take CPSO’s logic further, it means the doctor is there to expedite whatever the patient demands.

In Holland and Belgium, where euthanasia has run amok, doctors can suggest to patients to receive treatment or therapy before deciding to end one’s life, but they cannot demand it. If the patient refuses, the doctor must kill.

These issues are serious enough, but this fight is so much bigger than just euthanasia or any other so-called medical procedure. It is bigger than provincial politics in Ontario, or any other level of government in any jurisdiction.

Denying the right of person to exercise his or her conscience is more than just getting someone to do something they abhor. It is a form of brainwashing.

The message that this sends is that the most important thing in our society is government policy. Nothing else trumps it: not religion, not a set of ethical beliefs, not a sense of compassion, nor love of others.

Think about how the world has changed in such a short time and how many of our core beliefs have been swept aside in the name of progress.

For example, if you are a parent who opposes certain forms of sex education in schools you are apparantly relegated to era of the dinosaurs.

Here’s a liberal Christian commentator in the National Post two years ago saying what many of his ilk will say like a mantra: “The reaction [to the province’s sex-education program] has bordered on the hysterical, often from people who have not read the document and, truth be told, are opposed to pretty much any sex education outside of the family.”

In a Canadian Press story around the same time, Kathleen Wynne, the Ontario Premier, said she had no doubt of homophobia amoung those who were protesting against her government’s program.

Those of us who are citizens, pay taxes, contribute to society in myriad ways are reduced to hysterical homophobes because we feel our children should not be indoctrinated into ways of life that go against our most deeply held beliefs.

There absolutely is no assumption that the parents have a legitimate point of view.

Put another way: if you really want to seem a like a good member of society you should have no qualms about sex education because the government says this is what we call normal.

This is called totalitarianism. The term is often thrown around loosely but in this case it is apt. Not every form of totalitarianism employs brown shirts and jackboots. Some of it is as polite as a cocktail party but just as sinister. It concerns the inability of a certain strata of society to believe that their views are open to challenge. They fear that holding honest debate — thereby respecting the views of others — is a form of capitulation to some theocratic fantasy they claim is around the corner.

Part of me wonders whether in some not so distant future people like us will be ordered to get lobotomies or shock treatment to make us “normal” again.

What we think and the application of conscience, and I mean well informed and well-formed conscience, is in part what makes us human. It does not make us sex-averse or homophobic or extremist. Those are the boxes we are being shoved into.

This is why this latest battle in Ontario is so critically important. If we lose this then a precedent will be set that says the right to hold opposing views, and withdraw assent when it goes against our deepest held beliefs, will be illegal.

What happens when this province or some other jurisdiction legislates that we use what every silly honorific that any group of 10 or more people demand is not only is required, but that penalties for non-compliance will be enforced?

Sounds fantastic? Please read this from a story last year in the Washington Post:

The NYCHRL [New York City Human Rights Law] requires employers, [landlords, and all businesses and professionals] to use an [employee’s, tenant’s, customer’s, or client’s] preferred name, pronoun and title (e.g., Ms./Mrs.) regardless of the individual’s sex assigned at birth, anatomy, gender, medical history, appearance, or the sex indicated on the individual’s identification.
Most individuals and many transgender people use female or male pronouns and titles. Some transgender and gender non-conforming people prefer to use pronouns other than he/him/his or she/her/hers, such as they/them/theirs or ze/hir. [Footnote: Ze and hir are popular gender-free pronouns preferred by some transgender and/or gender non-conforming individuals.] …

These demands are being made in Canada and I am guessing they will be adopted because that is the kind of country we have become.

For too long too many Canadian have behaved like sheep going to the slaughter. Whatever new idea, no matter how much it breaks with many thousands of years of Judaic-Christian tradition, seems to be accepted as just fine.

It is time that all of us look at what is going on around us. Euthanasia is warping our legal and medical systems. The first sign is a province and a college fighting like demons to prevent doctors from thinking for themselves.

We are next. Governments that can exert nearly supernatural powers are dangerous. They get a taste of making everyone fall into line and they want more.

You must, you must, take part in this battle to give physicians the right to say “no.” If we do not, we will deserve the hell that awaits us. To make a stand now is to let those in power know we will not be kicked around — that when you try to trample our rights we will fight back like demons. Or in our case, fight like our better angels.

 


 

Charles Lewis is a regular contributor to The Catholic Register and a board member of the Catholic Civil Rights League. He has been writing for 36 years. He was also the religion reporter for the National Post until January 2014.

 

About the CCRL

Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

For further information:

Christian Domenic Elia, PhD
CCRL Executive Director
416-466-8244
@CCRLtweets