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Conscience Objections and Religious Liberty


ROBERT ROYAL

Source:
Zenit.org
Type:
Media/Opinion
Date:
3/13/2012

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ABSTRACTZENIT - Conscience Objections and Religious Liberty Indexed Archive | Advanced Search | The World Seen From Rome Zenit? All about Zenit Testimonies Services Conditions of use How is Zenit financed Prizes and Recognitions Faqs Identity and Organization Technical Problems Receive zenit Subscribe by Email Unsubscribe Gift-Subscriptions Zenit in RSS Zenit on your Web Conditions of use Problems receiving Zenit Support zenit Send a donation How is Zenit financed Legal Status Participate Help Zenit Spread Zenit Give the gift of Zenit Recommend Zenit Contact us FAQ Identity and Organization Technical Problems Advertising Contact us English > See information Why I support ZENIT... SEND DONATION ZE12031302 - 2012-03-13 Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-34443?l=english Conscience Objections and Religious Liberty On a Different View of Rights and Citizen-Government Relationship By Robert Royal ROME, MARCH 13, 2012 ( Zenit.org ).- The following is an English version of a presentation originally given in Italian, at a Feb. 29 event organized in Rome by the Tocqueville-Acton Institute, Fondazione Caelo et Terra, and Rubbettino Editore for Italian parliamentarians and the public.  * * * I would like to thank everyone who helped organize this event. This is an important subject that is beginning to manifest itself in all developed countries, from the United States to Europe, Australia to Canada. I do not want to be melodramatic but I really think we're beginning to see the emergence of a different view not only of fundamental rights, but of the relationship between citizens and government, which is fundamentally altering notions of the rights of conscience and of conscience itself. This change is not inevitable. But it requires us all to recognize the problem and to do something -- even if the hour is late.   I want to speak in particular, of course, about the current situation in the United States, which is to say, President Obama’s pressure on Catholic institutions, which is not really a question of rights of conscience, as I hope to explain. There is much confusion about what constitute conscience objections and that which is even more important, in my opinion, the most fundamental -- religious freedom.  So, I have three main points: first, to show a true case of a conscience objection, in the proper sense of the term; then, to indicate a cultural problem that is preventing resolution of still other conscience problems; and finally, I would like to analyze a bit the well known controversy in the United States right now on "Obamacare" and religious freedom.   So, let me begin with an example of protection of conscience, correctly understood. In Washington State in the United States, a lawsuit was filed against several pharmacists who refuse to dispense Plan-B drugs and Ella, which are in some cases abortifacients, for reasons of conscience. A large majority in the association of pharmacists in Washington State agreed with them on matters of conscience. But the state, and in particular the Governor Chris Gregoire, a Catholic in theory, have tried to force all pharmacists to dispense all legal medications. The case went to court – a state court not federal. The court found that in the past, pharmacists have been granted exemptions to sell or not sell various types of drugs and devices for economic, business, and other reasons. Since the state found no reason to force pharmacists in these circumstances, then why would it force them when serious moral issues are involved? The pharmacists won the case in a very liberal state on the Pacific coast. But we know why the state has made this attempt: because it wants to eliminate all public resistance to the procedures that progressive leaders now see as the most fundamental rights, far more worthy of protection than those of conscience or religion.   In this case, the judge did the right thing. But how long will this sense of awareness persist among the cultural elite? Another case may provide an answer. And this is my second point. In America, as here in Europe, the movement to allow gay marriage is growing every day. There are many people – I am one of them – and there are also the churches, who believe in civil rights for gay people, as for all people, but consider marriage as something unique, an institution that exists prior to the state. But in the debate, gay marriage is presented as a “fundamental right,” even if that right appears in no part of American Constitution or any other controlling document. By contrast, the resistance to this unfounded new right is presented as something parallel to the denial of basic civil rights to African-Americans before 1960. (In fact, as we know, it’s presented as a psychological disease called homophobia.)  In other words, churches, synagogues, mosques, chapels, individuals, etc. who see marriage as only between a man and a woman are placed in the same m.......