Guest: A threat to all Americans — the crucifixion of conscience
What is a conscience? It can be tough to use words to define something that we all know and in our hearts, understand. However, right now, here in the United States, it’s important that we talk about conscience.
Our conscience is the inner voice that tells us if something is right or wrong. It allows us to judge whether we should or should not do something or say something. It actually does more than allows us to decide right versus wrong, it compels us to do so for the good of ourselves and our community. For a person of faith, conscience is the product of their faith and religious practice.
Exercising our conscience and allowing it to guide our actions, both public and private, is an essential part of practicing and living our religion. As the compass that guides us it cannot, it must not, be subject to force and coercion. This is an absolute and is especially true if that force and coercion comes from the government. This absolute is so important that in 1993 by a unanimous vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and near-unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was passed and then signed into law by President Clinton.
The law “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected” and that “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion…” Men and women who are guided by a conscience formed by deeply held religious beliefs and who stand firm against violating these beliefs have been protected by RFRA. However, more and more an aggressive, leftist, secular agenda seeks to force men and women of faith to act and speak in ways that directly contradict their conscience. With the recent passing of the Equality Act by the House of Representatives and with a president who is committed to a radical agenda, the threat to religious conscience and the free practice of religion has increased dramatically. This growing threat is a threat to all Americans.
Freedom of conscience has been most at risk in the medical field. Doctors and nurses, pharmacists and therapists, have been protected from violating their deeply held beliefs of conscience. For many health care providers, directly or even indirectly participating in the ending of human life prior to natural death is in direct violation of their conscience, and respect for these conflicts of conscience has been the norm. It is wrong to force one of these caregivers to participate in the termination of a pregnancy or assist in a suicide.
Similarly, for doctors or nurses whose faith teaches that a person’s gender is not something that can be changed, forcing them to participate in so-called gender reassignment surgery and hormone manipulation would sacrifice their conscience. The Equality Act adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes to the Civil Rights Act. It also expressly forbids use of RFRA as a protection against violating your conscience and compromising your religious beliefs. If Democrats succeed in passing the Equality Act into law freedom of conscience protections regarding gender reassignment would be destroyed. The Equality Act also includes a ban on “pregnancy discrimination”. That sounds like a good thing until you realize that when the Equality Act says you cannot refuse a pregnant woman “treatment,” it includes pregnancy termination. Men and women of faith would be forced to participate; that’s the end of medical conscience protection. Faith-based hospitals would be forced to allow assisted suicide, termination and sex-change surgery.
The attack on our conscience is not limited to doctors, nurses and hospitals. All Americans are in danger. You, the American taxpayer, will also be forced to participate in sex-change surgeries: “gender reassignment” surgery for inmates in federal prisons and for transgender persons who receive health insurance through the Affordable Care Act will be paid for by your taxes. Adoption agencies that are guided by deeply held beliefs that children should be raised by a married couple that consists of a man and woman would be forced to comply and cater to same-sex couples or close. These attacks on faith-based adoption and foster care agencies have already begun and will increase; make no mistake, children who need adoption and foster care will be harmed.
Christian elementary and high schools that teach that people are either male or female, and that marriage consists of one of each would feel the heavy hand of a secular, wrathful government. Christian universities that teach the divine law of Genesis 1:27 and protect women’s sports by not permitting biological males to compete on women’s teams would lose federal student aid. A pastor’s counseling to a member of his congregation who is struggling with same-sex attraction or gender confusion could be considered hate speech if that counseling affirms time-honored Judeo-Christian understanding of gender and male/female sexual compatibility.
If you are not convinced that threats to religious conscience protections are coming right at you, your family and your community, then consider that the Equality Act, in its own words, applies to any establishment that provides a service “… including a store, shopping center, online retailer or service provider, salon, bank, gas station, food bank, service or care center, shelter, travel agency, or funeral parlor, or establishment that provides health care, accounting, or legal services.” I suppose veterinary clinics are exempt, but who knows? Houses of worship are not specifically mentioned in the Equality Act. However, we should fully expect that it is only a matter of time before a suit is brought by a same-sex couple or a couple which includes a gender reassigned person who wants to be married in Mobile’s or Birmingham’s Catholic Cathedral, or on one of the Church of the Highlands’ campuses, or an Orthodox synagogue and is refused based on the beliefs, theology and precepts of that religious community. The gutting and destruction of religious conscience protection will give support to such legal action.
Discrimination based on race, gender or orientation is wrong. Our Republic fought a bloody civil war to end the ultimate form of discrimination, and we are better off for it. However, if discrimination is directed at religious practices and beliefs that have been held and adhered to for thousands of years it is just as wrong. The Equality Act is the single greatest threat to freedom of conscience and to the free practice of religion our nation has faced. It must be resisted. It must be defeated. It must be seen for what it is: a crucifixion of conscience.
Dr. Christine is a urologic surgeon practicing in Birmingham, AL