Mount Sinai Hospital in New York has agreed to additional policy and procedure changes to protect the conscience rights of pro-life nurses and other employees as a result of a federal investigation.
In 2009, the hospital allegedly forced a Catholic pro-life nurse to assist in an abortion in violation of the nurse’s religious beliefs.
Federal law protects conscience rights of health care professionals with conscientious objections to participating in abortion.
The nurse, Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a public interest law firm that focuses on issues including right of conscience and religious freedom.
This case provides yet another illustration of a growing trend of attempting to force people to violate their consciences on issues such as abortion, contraception, family structure, the definition of marriage, religious association, and sexual morality—or pay a price for standing strong.
- Businesses and even some religious groups that object to providing, paying for, or facilitating access to abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization procedures through their health care plans are facing hefty fines under new Obamacare mandates.
- The Boy Scouts of America has endured years of legal challenges and hostile government actions because of policies such as requiring belief in God and maintaining that open homosexuality violates the group’s moral standards.
- Charity groups have been forced out of the adoption and foster care business because of their religious and moral viewpoints about family and sexuality.
- A photographer in New Mexico was hauled before a state human rights commission because she declined to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony in violation of her religious beliefs.
- Some states have attempted to force pharmacies and pharmacists to dispense drugs such as Plan B (“the morning-after pill”) in violation of their conscience.
- Christian student organizations that wish leaders or members to adhere to the religious beliefs and moral standards of those organizations have been excluded from benefits that other organizations receive.
- The “chief diversity officer” at a university for deaf and hard of hearing students was placed on administrative leave for nearly three months because she signed a petition to allow a citizen vote on how to define marriage in Maryland.
These cases illustrate how pressuring conscientious objectors to violate beliefs regarding issues such as abortion, contraception, family structure, definition of marriage, religious association, and sexual morality threatens to turn “culture wars” into “conscience wars.”
In pluralistic societies where consensus is elusive, protecting religious liberty and rights of conscience is one of the most effective and principled ways to promote social peace and civic fraternity.
Public officials and government bodies, along with private citizens and institutions of diverse viewpoints, should work together to promote respect for religious and moral conscience and its essential role in maintaining a free and civil society.
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