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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

DOJ: Govt. Can Force Doctors to Violate Religion



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A doctor can be forced to violate her religious beliefs in the operation of her practice, according to the Obama Dept. of Justice. Attention must be paid. This is a step beyond the radical DOJ argument made previously in the Free Birth Control Rule cases, e.g., that business owners do not have freedom of religion in the way they operate for-profit businesses. CNS News reported that in this context, Judge Reggie Walton asked an intriguing question. From the court transcript (starting at page 35):

THE COURT: Well, I mean, my wife has a medical practice. She has a corporation, but she’s the sole owner and sole stock owner. If she had strongly-held religious belief and she made that known that she operated her medical practice from that perspective, could she be required to pay for these types of items if she felt that that was causing her to violate her religious beliefs?…

It’s a legal separation. I mean, she obviously has created the corporation to limit her potential individual liability, but she’s the sole owner and everybody associates that medical practice with her as an individual.And if, you know, she was very active in her church and her church had these same type of strong religious-held beliefs,and members of the church and the community became aware of the fact that she is funding something that is totally contrary to what she professes as her belief, why should she have to do that?

The answer is chilling on two fronts, as I will discuss below:

MR. BERWICK: Well, Your Honor, again, I think it comes down to the fact that the corporation and the owner truly are separate. They are separate legal entities.

So, as a business owner, even as a sole proprietor, she would have to violate her religious beliefs in service to the government’s desired morality as set by regulations. (The DOJ argues that a prime purpose of the HHS Mandate is “gender equality,” which is not the point or purpose of health insurance.)

But it isn’t just the corporate shell that matters with regard to the DOJ argument. Elsewhere, government lawyers argued that it is the mere act of seeking profit that eradicates freedom of religion in the context of doing business, an assertion that goes far beyond what might have to be covered in health insurance.

What if the government one day requires all doctors to participate in abortion or assisted suicide, either by doing the deed personally or referring to a doctor who will. That is already the law of Victoria, Australia regarding abortion, so it is clearly not beyond the pale. If a doctor has no freedom of religion in the context of his or her business, then refusing to do an abortion or assist in suicide based on religious beliefs could also be outlawed, simply because the doctor is in business. Anyone who can’t see the tyrannical possibilities doesn’t want to see. 



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