Friday, August 22, 2008

You Must Inseminate

Barbara Shelly has a piece in The Star today applauding the California Supreme Court's unanimous decision determining that a lesbian's right to artificial insemination trumps the First Amendment rights of a physician to refuse on grounds of religious belief.

If that sounds like a biased characterization on my part, here's what the court actually wrote (as quoted by The Star):

“The First Amendment’s right to free exercise of religion does not exempt … physicians from conforming their conduct to (a California law’s) antidiscrimination requirements."

The California law in question is a 2005 amendment to California's Unruh Civil Rights act, and in the Golden State it carries more legal weight than the First Amendment. Or so thinks the court.

For another perspective, Catholic News Service reports on the California Catholic Bishops' response to the decision (excerpt):

"No one has the right to demand a nonemergency medical procedure from someone who finds that procedure morally unacceptable -- or religiously objectionable," said Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry of Los Angeles following the court's Aug. 18 ruling in North Coast Women's Care Medical Group v. Guadalupe T. Benitez.

"This case did not involve a life-and-death situation but only a possible inconvenience -- one which required the patient to 'walk across the office,'" added Bishop Curry, who chairs the conference's Religious Liberty Committee.

James F. Sweeney, legal counsel for the California Catholic Conference, agreed. "To even suggest that a physician's religious and moral conscience must yield to the directives of a patient regarding a nonemergency procedure is so clearly contrary to traditional notions of individual liberty and religious freedom that there should have been no question that the court would defer to the constitutional rights of the involved doctors," he said.

The full article is available here.

California certainly serves as a warning for other states considering extending non-discrimination language or marriage rights to same-sex couples.

What many people of good will who support such measures as a gesture of tolerance fail to understand is that these laws quickly become tools of coercion by the state.

Blogger and Key columnist Mark Shea has frequently observed that for today's tolerance activists, "Tolerance is insufficient. You. Must. Approve!" We are already at the point now, however, where approval is insufficient and actual participation in what you hold wrong is being required by courts.