Miscellany, December 7

  • Ann Althouse on Bill O’Reilly and the Washington atheist sign:
    Atheist Christmas sign

    Atheist Christmas sign

    Another December, another battle in the “War on Christmas.” I think the sensible people don’t want to fight about religion, but there are always extremists — pro-religion and anti-religion — who seek glory in the fighting. Tolerance and peace is the better path. Please take it.

    Earlier discussion here and, generally, here.

  • Current laws in most states protect the Roman Catholic Church’s right to turn away abortion-seekers even as it accepts public funds to provide other ob/gyn services at its vast network of hospitals. Now the church hierarchy vows to behave like an Ayn Rand hero (hey, I meant that as a compliment) and close down (not sell) the hospitals, no matter how grave the consequences for patients, if the pending, Obama-endorsed Freedom of Choice Act winds up knocking out such laws. As one much interested in the law of religious accommodation, I’ll say that I’m strongly inclined to defend the current laws that excuse the Catholic hospitals from having to perform abortions. At the same time, I’m equally strongly opposed to newer Religious-Right-backed proposals for the law to create opt-out rights within organizations, thus enabling devout employees of secular clinics and hospitals to announce to their startled supervisors that they will no longer perform their job duties when that means facilitating abortions (or sterilization, contraception, in vitro fertilization for unmarried women, or whatever). It seems to me a relevant factor that nearly everywhere in the country the publicly funded patient can choose from among an ample variety of secular health care options, while likewise the committed opponent of contraception has a great many possible job options other than working behind a Walgreen’s pharmacy counter. But I suspect that many commenters will favor policies that are more absolutist in one direction or the other.
  • Aside to some of the usual suspects: I know you dearly love to feel that churches are being persecuted and driven into the catacombs over their social-conservative political activism, but when even big-league separationist Barry Lynn says the Mormon and Roman Catholic churches are in no danger of losing their tax exemption over their promotion of Prop 8, maybe it’s time to just admit that they’re in no danger of losing it. Kthxbai.

About Walter Olson

Fellow at a think tank in the Northeast specializing in law. Websites include overlawyered.com. Former columnist for Reason and Times Online (U.K.), contributor to National Review, etc.
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5 Responses to Miscellany, December 7

  1. JM Hanes says:

    “At the same time, I’m equally strongly opposed to newer Religious-Right-backed proposals for the law to create opt-out rights within organizations…”

    Amen to that! Ditto for pharmacists picking and choosing which of their employers’ medications they will dispense, or in what may not long be reductio ad absurbum cases of grocery clerks refusing to handle certain taboo products. My original reaction to the pharmacist problem was that state licensing should require licensees to fill any prescription for a legally available medication. Alas, it would have an unfortunate parallel with regard to medical licensing and legal medical procedures too. Your suggestion avoids that problem.

    There’s a potentially relevant (potentially ironic) trend issuing from other health related quarters, of course. In the (now hypothetical!) case of a waitress working in a restaurant where smoking is permitted, there is a presumption of compulsion in her exposure to second hand smoke, to which, in essence, she cannot legally consent. This tension between employer and employee has been most widely resolved in the nominal favor of the employee by making smoking illegal in any restaurant.

    The most dangerous legal maneuver currently under way, IMO, is the concerted push to establish the fetus as a person in law. You can see it in legislation which treats the killing of a pregnant woman as a double homicide, something that was heavily promoted in the emotional wake of the Lacie Peterson tragedy.. It shows up in supposedly innocuous changes in legal language, where, for instance a reference to insurance for a “pregnant woman,” becomes insurance for a “woman and her unborn child.” The cumulative weight of such legislated precedents for unborn legal personhood will eventually be the basis for re-litigating Roe v Wade in the Supreme Court. Should an embryo ever be accorded such independent legal status as well, we’re talking bobsled runs, not slippery slopes in governmental intrusion on reproduction at every level.

  2. JM Hanes says:

    I would add that inviting governmental intrusion as above is antithetical to conservative principles, and that the scale of the potential intrusion is something the religious right perversely ignore at their own peril.

  3. Blode0322 says:

    I believe the Freedom of Choice Act will be a test of America’s resistance to nothing more or less than the Principles of Oligarchical Collectivism. A wonderful Newspeak name, reversing the most ordinary meaning of a commonly-used term, and a goal that serves no one. Imagine that – a woman (not just “a person”) lacking the right to get an abortion at any hospital. Because, of course, some fraction of the nation’s women live closer to RC Hospitals than they do to other places. It would endanger their health to have to go down the road.

    I applaud the Catholics for putting their foot down on this one. If they don’t fight their battle here, they’ll have to fight the next measure that comes down the pipeline … something along the lines of a “national service” program, in which volunteers with the skills to perform abortions are forced to perform them.

    Which would we rather have … Catholics providing health services, or a victory on “women’s issues” for Obama. I know the guy’s a little bit lacking the “legislative achievement” department, but still. If Congress accepts the Freedom of Choice Act, they will likely accepting everything else the Obama Administration sends their way (amnesty at the very least, maybe “outlawing racism”…?)

  4. Paula Hall says:

    Thank you for the complimentary reference to Ayn Rand! And thank you also for the name of your site, “Secular Right.” If the “Right” concentrated on individual rights and not on using government guns to enforce their belief in the supernatural, the U.S. would be a happier, safer, more prosperous nation.

    I agree with you that a Catholic institution should not have to perform abortions, because I believe in property rights. The Catholic Church, like any property owner who has legally come by their property, has every right to use — or not use — its property as it sees fit. Consistent recognition of property rights in this context, however, requires that no taxpayer property (their dollars) be forcibly taken from people and given to any hospital or healthcare provider, whether in the form of government aid directly to the hospitals or to healthcare consumers. That is, the healthcare system should be completely private. If property rights were properly recognized, the issue of “opt-out rights” would never arise.

    I recommend the websites of two organizations for great material on this and related subjects. The first is Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM), at http://www.westandfirm.org/, and the second is Coalition for Secular Government, http://www.seculargovernment.us/.

  5. Xenocles says:

    As an extremist on property rights and freedom of association, I completely agree with the parallel proposals in the OP. Hospitals have the right to set their own policies both on services offered and on personnel. If the owners oppose abortion, of course they should be able to deny access to it. Likewise, if the owners choose to offer abortions and they employ people who refuse to do them, they can exercise their freedom of association and end the relationship (ie, fire them). The only right to opt out for the employee is to opt out of the company and resign entirely. Sure it sucks, but nobody said having principles was easy. After all, wasn’t it an ancient rabbi who said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness?”

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