Conflicts of Conscience in Health Care: Commentary

Conflicts of Conscience in Health Care was published in 2008 as the 24th volume in the Basic Bioethics series from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is an American book dealing with the American political and legal controversies over freedom of conscience in health care. However, the discussion of the American experience by Holly Fernandez Lynch is relevant elsewhere, since the United States has the most extensive and varied network of protection of conscience legislation in the world. While acknowledging that freedom of conscience is of concern to all health care workers and institutions, Fernandez Lynch focuses exclusively on physicians.This carefully and deliberately restricted focus is one of the strengths of the book. Detailed backgrounder and commentary by Sean Murphy of the Protection of Conscience Project. League commentary on euthanasia and doctors’ conscientious...

Faith groups’ hiring rights under the microscope

TORONTO, Ont. Dec. 15, 2009 – Arguments begin today in Ontario Divisional Court in the appeal of  the decision by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal against Christian Horizons. The Tribunal ruled against the social service agency in April, 2008, stating that it cannot insist on faith requirements in its hiring, nor require employees to sign agreements attesting to such requirements. The decision raised significant concerns about the freedom of all religious organizations to require employees to pledge to adhere to tenets of a religious faith. Christian Horizons operates more than 180 residential homes for people with developmental disabilities and provides support and services to about 1,400 people. It is funded almost entirely by the province, receiving about $75 million each year. Prior to the OHRT decision, all staff were required to sign its Doctrinal and Lifestyle Morality Statement, which forbade a number of activities, including homosexual conduct. The organization’s management had always regarded their work as a ministry arising from evangelical Christian convictions. The complaint to the human rights commission was made by former employee Christina Heintz, who signed the employee agreement when she joined the organization in 1995, but later entered into a lesbian relationship which became known to her supervisor. In upholding the complaint, the tribunal ordered back pay and damages to Ms. Heintz, and required the organization to adopt non-discrimination policies in keeping with the Ontario Human Rights Code. Significantly, the decision specified that any future contract cannot require behaviour consistent with Christian teaching on homosexual conduct or lifestyle. The decision raised significant questions for religious organizations that serve the general public. While parts of it...

Stop the use of human rights’ commissions in free speech cases

TORONTO, December 31, 2007 – The news in early December that Mark Steyn and Macleans Magazine are the subject of a complaint to the B.C. and federal Human Rights Commissions because of an article the magazine published, excerpted from Mr. Steyn’s book “America Alone”, is a higher-profile example of an ongoing pattern in the use of human rights’ commissions to penalize the expression of unpopular opinions. The League is concerned about this disturbing trend, since it often involves opinions based on religious beliefs. In several cases, some of which has seen the League participate as an intervenor, attempts have been made to characterize scriptural passages as hate literature. While these commissions and their tribunals have generally been sympathetic to complaints of “offended feelings” brought by homosexual rights activists, those brought by Christians seeking support for their right to freedom of religion or religious expression have been less successful. In fact, in two recent cases people applying to human rights commissions to have their religious rights respected in freedom of speech issues have been refused. Federal and provincial human rights commissions refused to hear the cases of Susan Comstock and Dave MacDonald, who sought to have their union dues diverted to charitable organizations in protest of the union’s use of their dues for political activism and anti-Catholic activity. In refusing, the commission noted in Mrs. Comstock’s case that “no prohibited ground of discrimination was established.” The League believes that the continued incursion of human rights’ commissions in matters of peaceable free speech will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression. When someone’s words are disagreeable or contentious, the normal...

“Taking Stock”: Election study guide issued by Ontario bishops

To help voters prepare for the Ontario election Oct. 10, the Catholic Bishops of Ontario have revised and updated their 2002 pastoral letter “Taking Stock, an Examination of Conscience.” It provides reflections on Catholic social teaching and the many general issues on which it has a bearing.  It also includes discussion suggestions for study groups. We’re also pleased to provide pdfs of the League’s popular position papers on the importance of participating in public life. In keeping with our commitment to bringing a positive and non-partisan perspective to political issues, these articles integrate contemporary Church teaching on Catholic participation in the public forum. 1. The Church and political affairs 2. The clergy and political affairs 3. The laity and political affairs 4. Catholic candidates for public...

The use of union dues for non-workplace advocacy

Many Canadians object to having their mandatory union dues used to promote various social agendas such as same sex “marriage”, anti-life legislation and other issues that are deeply informed by religious values. The League has been involved with several such cases, including one involving the right to divert mandatory union dues to Church or charity rather than go along with this advocacy. The factum for the appeal of this case, between Susan Comstock and the Public Service Alliance of Canada, summarizes many of the freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of association issues associated with the use and possibility for diversion of mandatory union...

The question of Catholic school funding

As Ontario prepares for an election in October, several groups are trying to raise the question of continued funding for the province’s Catholic elementary and secondary schools. Some claim that all publicly-funded schools would be operated more efficiently if there was one, non-sectarian system, with school boards drawn geographically and, in most localities, in French or English streams. Several public school boards have already passed resolutions to this effect. Others claim that public funding for religious schools, currently enjoyed only by Catholics, should be extended to other faith groups in the name of fairness and respect for religious equality. Read the League’s position paper on this...