Kelsey Hazzard, the founder and president of Secular Pro-Life, also happens to be a lawyer. For the Rehumanize International conference earlier this month, she offered her legal analysis of lawsuits that challenge abortion restrictions on “religious liberty” grounds. The video and transcript are below.
The short version (spoiler alert): A religious liberty claim does not trump the right to life, even when it involves medical decision-making in the context of a family relationship. We know this because there is a long line of cases requiring blood transfusions for the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses, against their parents’ religious objections. This applies to unborn children too.
[Many thanks to Secular Pro-Life volunteer Anna Zwergel for preparing this transcript. If you’d like to offer volunteer transcription services, please contact us.]
Hello everyone, and welcome to “Religious Liberty Justifications for Violence: a Legal Analysis.” For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Kelsey Hazzard. I am the founder and president of Secular Pro-Life. SPL is an atheist-led organization advancing secular arguments against abortion and uniting people of every faith and none to protect prenatal human beings. I’m really excited about this presentation. Although I am an atheist, I have always taken a strong academic interest in religion. My undergraduate majors were religious studies and psychology, and then I went to law school where I just devoured all things First Amendment. So I want to thank Rehumanize International for giving me this wonderful opportunity to geek out with an audience.
You have probably seen headlines about Satanist groups and pro-abortion Jewish synagogues filing lawsuits against pro-life legislation claiming that it violates their religious freedom. And maybe you’ve thought, “Well, that’s ridiculous! You can’t just kill somebody and say, ‘Oh, but it’s my religion.’” And if that was your reaction, your intuition is correct. I am going to conclude that these lawsuits ought to fail. But to discuss this issue intelligently beyond just our intuitive reactions requires understanding some key concepts of religious liberty law. So, this session is your crash course.
I have five housekeeping matters before I begin. One: I have a lot of citations. You can find all of them in the most recent post at secularprolife.org/blog. I’ve also dropped it in the chat, and if you’re watching the later recording, there should be a link in the description. Two: a disclaimer – I am an attorney. I am not your attorney. This presentation is for general educational purposes only. It is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should contact a lawyer who’s licensed in your jurisdiction to give you advice that’s tailored to your situation. Number three: I realized that this conference attracts attendees from around the world. In fact, I think I saw a poll earlier that about a quarter of you are from outside of the United States of America. I am focused here. This presentation is specifically about US law. Number four: if you have questions or comments, please put them in the Q&A tab. I’ll circle back to them at the end if we have time. If you put them in the general chat tab, I might miss them. So please use that Q&A tab.
Finally, number five: this session is going to touch on quite a few belief systems – Satanism, Judaism, Native American Spirituality, Santeria, Evangelical Christianity, Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the immortal words of Stefan from Saturday Night Live, this club has everything. If you happen to belong to any of the religious communities I just mentioned, I apologize in advance for how cursory and surface level my comments are going to be. You could devote a lifetime of study to any one of the religions I mentioned, and many people have. We have 45 minutes. It is what it is, and I’m sorry.
So all of those housekeeping matters are done. Let us dive in with a Native American church and the case of Employment Division: Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith. That’s a mouthful. We usually just say Employment Division v. Smith. Mr. Smith ingested peyote for sacramental purposes during a Native American ceremony. Somehow his employer, a drug rehab center, found out about that and fired him. He applied for state unemployment benefits and he was denied. Oregon’s position was: using hallucinogens is illegal in our state. You used them. There is no religious exception, so it’s your own damn fault you lost your job. We’re not paying you unemployment. Mr. Smith argued that this violated his first amendment right to free exercise of religion. The case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court ruled against him. The court supported Oregon’s position. Their reasoning, and I’m paraphrasing here, was – what are you nuts? We can’t start making religious exceptions to drug laws. Every heroin addict in the country is going to take advantage of that. Laws would mean absolutely nothing. It would be chaos.
So he lost his case. And the legal standard that was announced in Smith was that if a generally applicable law incidentally burdens religious exercise, that is not a First Amendment violation. The law will be upheld and the state does not have to create an exception or an accommodation for that religious person. So what does the Supreme Court mean by “generally applicable law?”
The best way to illustrate that is with a counter example. Let’s talk about Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah. I love this case, not just because it’s fun to say, although it definitely is – Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye – I also just find it super interesting, and my favorite law professor Douglas Laycock happened to represent the church.
So, first some background: this is where Santeria makes an appearance. And if your only familiarity with Santeria is the Sublime song, you have excellent musical taste. [Singing] “I don’t practice Santeria ain’t got no crystal ball.” Just don’t pop a cap in Sancho – this is a consistent life ethic conference. By the way, I have no way of knowing if my stupid jokes are landing, so please, please be gentle.
Santeria is most commonly practiced in Cuba. It arose from the interaction of African religions brought by enslaved people, and Catholicism brought by colonizers. When Cuban-American refugees settled in South Florida, they brought Santeria with them. Santeria worship sometimes involves ritual animal sacrifice, which makes it a very foreign, and objectionable, scenario to a white American audience. When a Santeria priest announced that he was opening the Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye in Hialeah, a Santeria congregation, it did not go over well. As the Supreme Court put it in its opinion, “The prospect of a Santeria church in their midst was distressing to many members of the Hialeah community, and the announcement of the plans to open a Santeria church in Hialeah prompted the city council to hold an emergency public session on June 9, 1987.” That session, and some later ones, produced numerous resolutions and ordinances, which, taken together, prohibited the Santeria animal sacrifices.
So this went up to the US Supreme Court, and the Justices had no trouble figuring out that this was not a generally applicable law. It was a unanimous decision. The city argued, hey, we’re just promoting animal welfare, and we have legitimate public health concerns as far as the animal remains go. But that was unconvincing because the ordinances were just riddled with exceptions: for commercial meat production, for hunting, for pest control, and even for kosher slaughter. The court called it a “religious gerrymander.” I’ll quote again from the opinion, “The net result of the gerrymander is that few, if any, killings of animals are prohibited other than Santeria sacrifice, which is prescribed because it occurs during a ritual or ceremony, and its primary purpose is to make an offering to the Orishas, not food consumption. Indeed, careful drafting ensured that although Santeria sacrifice is prohibited, killings that are no more necessary or humane in almost all other circumstances are unpunished.”
In other words, this law was discriminatory. And since the law was not generally applicable, the Smith standard did not apply. Instead, the court used a much tougher standard, what we call “strict scrutiny.” There must be a compelling interest in support of the law, and the law must be narrowly tailored to advance that interest with the least religious burden possible. Remember that test: compelling interest, narrowly tailored. That’s strict scrutiny. And there’s a saying in the legal community: “strict in theory, fatal in fact.” Meaning hardly anything is going to pass the strict scrutiny test. Hialeah’s anti-sacrifice law certainly did not, and the Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye emerged victorious.
So at this point you might be wondering how this is relevant to anti-abortion laws. After all, we aren’t targeting a particular religion. We didn’t convene an emergency city council session to ban the Satanic abortion ritual. We aren’t trying to save only the babies conceived by mothers of a particular faith group. We want to save as many babies as humanly possible. That’s how pro-life laws are written. They’re broad. They’re generally applicable. Yes, that is right.
However, the American public really did not like the outcome in Employment Division v. Smith. A lot of people on both sides of the aisle felt that Smith should have won that case, and it’s not hard to see why, right? He’s a very sympathetic plaintiff. He wasn’t hurting anybody. Native American use of peyote is thousands of years older than the United States itself. The war on drugs really has run amok here. Why couldn’t Oregon have just made an exception for him? Don’t we have freedom of religion in this country? And that was bipartisan sentiment at the time. So Congress passed a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA. And what RFRA did was take that compelling interest, strict scrutiny test that was used in Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye and say that’s going to be the test for all religious freedom claims, including claims for an exception to a generally applicable law. Now, the federal RFRA only applies to federal laws, but almost half of the states enacted their own state-level RFRAs. That includes much of the South and also some deep blue New England states. The end result is that whether you are going to take more of a Smith approach or more of a Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye approach depends on where you live.
I told you that RFRA was a bipartisan sentiment at the time. Not so much now. Over the years, increasingly high profile RFRA claims involve LGBT issues, for instance, conservative Christian florists seeking exceptions from anti-discrimination laws so that they can refuse to serve same sex weddings. RFRA itself didn’t change, but it acquired this anti-gay connotation that left a lot of liberals with a sour taste in their mouths. And like so many other issues, opinions about RFRA grew more and more partisan, more and more polarized.
And then, the Supreme Court decided Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. This was a huge RFRA case. It was only eight years ago. It got a ton of press and I’m sure many of you already know all about it. But I’m going to summarize it anyway. So as part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” (whatever you want to call it,) employers of a certain size were required to provide coverage for various contraceptives with no copay. Hobby Lobby did not object to most of the contraceptive methods on the list, but it identified four that it said weren’t really contraceptives, that that was a misnomer. These were really abortifacients. They weren’t preventing conception, they were preventing a newly conceived embryo from implanting. Hobby Lobby considered that to be an early abortion, and the company owners’ Evangelical Christian faith would not allow them to be complicit in funding their employees’ abortions. Hobby Lobby brought a case under RFRA. The Supreme Court used that two part strict scrutiny test. Remember: compelling interest and narrowly tailored. The Court assumed that the government does have a compelling interest in ensuring access to contraception. It was that second part of the test, whether the law is narrowly tailored to advance the compelling interests by the least restrictive means, which is where the contraceptive mandate failed. And that was largely because a religious exception already existed. The Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, had created an exception, had given accommodations to churches and religious non-profits that had a problem with funding contraceptives. In those cases, the government covered the cost without the employer’s involvement, thus advancing the compelling interest in contraceptive access without a religious burden. So the accommodation was obviously possible. It was being done. It’s just that HHS would not extend that accommodation to Hobby Lobby on the ground that Hobby Lobby was a for-profit company. A slim majority of the justices, 5-4, said that under RFRA, that doesn’t matter. For-profit or nonprofit status doesn’t matter. So Hobby Lobby got its exception from the contraceptive mandate. The mandate itself was not struck down, by the way. It’s still in effect, albeit with greater, broader, religious exceptions than HHS wanted. Women are still getting their pills, the sky didn’t fall, but plenty of people were convinced that the sky was falling and RFRA took another hit in the court of public opinion.
So the religious liberty challenges to pro-life laws that we’re seeing today are largely RFRA lawsuits. When you read the press about them, the narrative is basically, “Ha ha ha, conservatives, we’re using your religion law against you!” Like it’s some kind of “gotcha.” Hopefully, by virtue of this presentation, you understand why that take is ahistorical. But forget the press. Let’s take a fair look at the lawsuits themselves, starting with the Satanists.
First of all, to correct a myth, Satanists do not literally worship Satan or even believe in the existence of Satan. Satanism is a naturalistic system, but you do not necessarily need a deity to qualify as a religion under the First Amendment. Sincerely held moral beliefs will suffice. For purposes of today, Satanism is a religion. And Satanists provide a useful public service, in my view, keeping local governments in compliance with the Establishment clause. “Ahh I see you’ve put up a Ten Commandments monument. Where do we apply to erect our statue to Baphomet?” It’s those guys. You’ve seen the Satanists.
One of the better known Satanist communities is the Satanic Temple, which follows seven tenets. The first tenet is: “One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.” Unfortunately, that noble tenant goes straight out the window when it comes to abortion. In that case, they emphasize the third tenet: “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.” Classic sovereign zone. The Satanic abortion ritual involves reciting and contemplating that third tenet while getting an abortion, for the purpose of “casting off guilt, shame, and mental discomfort that the Satanist may be experiencing about the abortion.” So the argument is not that abortion is a required part of Satanic practice. It’s not like making a hajj. They’re not sacrificing babies to earn points. That’s not what’s going on here. The argument is just that if a Satanist is going to have abortion, this is the ritual that goes along with it. And by restricting abortion, you’re also restricting the ritual.
The Jewish lawsuits, by contrast, argue that Jewish law actually requires abortion, at least in some circumstances. For instance, the complaint brought by Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor against Florida’s 15-week ban, which is still pending. That complaint asserts that late-term abortion is required under Jewish law, if necessary, to promote the woman’s “mental wellbeing,” which obviously goes far beyond Florida’s normal health of the mother exception.
To be abundantly clear, that is not a universal interpretation of Jewish law. Those plaintiffs do not speak for all Jews. There are pro-life Jews, and Jews are welcome at this conference.
Let’s assume that we are in a RFRA jurisdiction. If a state wants its pro-life laws to apply universally without granting an exception to anyone who claims a religious freedom to abort, remember what the state has to show. One, the law is supported by a compelling interest. And two, that the law is narrowly tailored to advance that compelling interest with the least possible burden to religious exercise.
We all know what the compelling interest is. It’s human life. The plaintiffs will say, “not to our religion, it’s not.” And I say, “bring on that debate.” The science of life at fertilization is settled. And when you read the Dobbs opinion, I don’t think you can escape the conclusion that the government now has a legally compelling interest in preventing abortions.
Is there any way to promote that compelling interest without creating a religious clash? Not that I see. One day with the development of artificial wombs? Maybe. That would be great. But with current technology: no. So I conclude that anti-abortion laws should survive a RFRA challenge. They survive strict scrutiny. The lawsuits will fail.
“But Kelsey,” someone asks, “What about strict in theory, fatal in fact?” Thank you, person who has been paying attention! You should be skeptical. Can I point to any specific legal precedent for the idea that a state’s interest in protecting human life, and in particular young human life, and preventing human death, can trump a religiously motivated medical decision?
Well, folks, I promised you Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I’m a woman of my word. Several Bible verses prohibit eating blood and instruct Israelites to remove blood from their meat. Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret those verses to prohibit not only eating blood through the mouth and digestion, but any consumption of blood, including taking blood intravenously. They oppose blood transfusions on that religious ground. This belief is very sincerely held. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses would rather die than accept a blood transfusion. Many have proved it.
Normally, we trust parents to make medical decisions for their children. But when Jehovah’s Witness parents refuse to allow life-saving blood transfusions for their kids, authorities often intervene. And when that happens, the parents go to court demanding vindication of their religious liberty. There’s a whole line of cases about this going back decades. And most of them cite this powerful quote from the Supreme Court case of Prince v. Massachusetts: “Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves, but it does not follow that they are free in identical circumstances to make martyrs of their children.” Oddly enough, Prince didn’t involve blood transfusion or any other life or death issue. Prince was about a Jehovah’s Witness who had her daughter selling religious pamphlets late at night in violation of a child labor law. But the Supreme Court’s rhetorical flourish about making martyrs of your children made it clear how it would come down in a blood transfusion case.
And courts across the country took that unsubtle hint. For example, a Washington Court rejected a Jehovah’s Witness blood transfusion lawsuit on the “compelling authority of Prince.” An Ohio Court wrote, “no longer can parents virtually exercise the power of life or death over their children. Nor may they abandon him, deny him proper parental care, neglect, or refuse to provide him with proper and necessary subsistence, education, medical or surgical care, or other care necessary for his health, morals, or wellbeing. And while they may, under certain circumstances, deprive him of his liberty or his property, under no circumstances, with or without due process, with or without religious sanction, are they free to deprive him of his life.” That same court went on to say, “The parents in this case have a perfect right to worship as they please and believe what they please. They enjoy complete freedom of religion, but this right of theirs ends where somebody else’s right begins. Their child is a human being in his own right with a soul and body of his own. He has rights of his own. The right to live and grow up without disfigurement.”
Okay, you’re thinking, those were all born children. Okay. Allow me to introduce you to the New Jersey case of Hoener v. Bertinato. Mr. and Mrs. Bertinato were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mrs. Bertinato was pregnant with her fourth child. This was an issue of RH incompatibility. I am not qualified to explain that in any detail, so I’ll just quote the court. “Her first child was born without the necessity of blood transfusions and is a normal child. This accords with the medical testimony at the hearing that the mother’s RH blood condition adversely affects the second and subsequent children, but rarely is harmful to the first born.” Second child needed a blood transfusion immediately. The parents refused and the baby’s doctors filed an emergency petition. The court briefly placed that baby in state custody just long enough to accomplish the blood transfusion. The child survived, and the child was returned to the parents. I’ll quote again: “Gloria Bertinato’s third pregnancy resulted in a baby who admittedly also needed a blood transfusion to save its life, but defendants again refused to permit this on religious grounds. No legal proceedings were instituted to compel the transfusion. The infant died.” For baby number four, the county would not allow that tragedy to be repeated. They were ready. Officials filed their lawsuit before the child was born, to ensure that a blood transfusion could occur. The lawsuit, quote, “charges that the defendants, by their refusal to authorize the transfusions, are endangering the life of the unborn child, and are therefore neglecting to provide it with proper protection,” in violation of New Jersey law. The court acknowledged that the parents’ religious objections were sincere, but: “The parents’ constitutional freedom of religion, although accorded the greatest possible respect, must bend to the paramount interest of the state to act in order to preserve the welfare of a child and its right to survive.” The court cited Prince and various other Jehovah’s Witness blood transfusion cases, and then it asked – should the outcome be any different because this child is still in the womb? And the answer was a resounding no. This was pre-Roe. So the court embraced the science and stated “medical authority recognizes that an unborn child is a distinct biological entity from the time of conception, and many branches of the law afford the unborn child protection throughout the period of gestation.” Of course, in the Dobbs era, that protection is finally being restored. A pro-abortion American is free to embrace a religious belief that human life does not begin at fertilization, but she is not free to make a martyr of her child.
That concludes my prepared remarks. I appreciate your time, and I look forward to answering your questions.
Elizabeth asked, “what was the name of this case?” I don’t know which case you’re referring to. All of the cases are in that citation, that link I gave at the beginning. And you should be able to [access them]. Are you talking about the last case I mentioned? [It was] Hoener v.Bertinato. [That] was the case with the unborn child of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Love all the jokes and geekdom!” Thank you. I know that we cover some dark topics at the Rehumanize Conference, and I’m a big believer in trying to lighten the mood.
I don’t see much in the Q&A tab, so I’m just gonna scroll back through the chat tab. Let me see if there’s anything here…
“As a fellow lawyer, I feel that caveat to my core.” Yes. Thank you, Lea.
“Jews have been pro-life for millennia.” So yeah, I agree, Joey. Thank you, Joey.
Okay, Ben says, “These seem like really strong precedents, especially because some of them are arguably about letting die rather than killing and are thus even stronger than what you’d need in the abortion case.” Excellent point, Ben. Yes, I certainly hope that the courts see it the same way. The downside to the Jehovah’s Witness precedents is that they are older and they are not Supreme Court precedents. But as I mentioned, the Supreme Court precedent in Prince, although not about blood transfusions, has largely been taken up in that line of cases. And I think it would still function in the same way in the unlikely event that one of these religious freedom abortion cases makes its way all the way to our highest court.
“How would you summarize this to say 240 characters? Like to tweet at Catholics for Choice?” You might need a thread, or you can just link to the eventual video of this presentation. I believe Rehumanize is going to make this footage available, and then we’ll get the closed captions going and put it up on YouTube, hopefully within the next few weeks. Maybe I should start tweeting at Catholics for Choice about this.
“What are you seeing in the legal field regarding RFRA changing its function post-Roe?” I don’t know that it’s really changing its function necessarily. So some of the plaintiffs, and particularly the Satanist plaintiffs, I think are bringing these lawsuits, not solely because they’re pro-abortion, although they are — I think they would also, as a strategic matter, like to push on RFRA. I think that’s why we’re seeing the press around it that we’re seeing. Even if they were to lose, and they have to know that they’re likely to lose, this is a press thing and this is a matter of trying to get some more public opposition to RFRA. So I haven’t seen a whole lot of traction on that front. I haven’t seen any legislatures taking RFRA off their books, but you never know.
David asks, “How do you do your legal research and how long does it take? Did you know most of these cases offhand or did you have to look them up?” So I knew some of the big ones offhand. I knew Employment Division v Smith. I knew Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye. I knew Prince vs. Massachusetts. I knew Burwell v.Hobby Lobby. I refreshed my memory by rereading those opinions, but I knew that was where I needed to start. And then I did have to do some additional research when it came to the pending lawsuits, and also the Jehovah’s Witness line of cases. Because I am a practicing attorney, I have access to Westlaw, which is the legal database. That was very helpful. I started by just doing a general search for law review articles about Jehovah’s Witness and blood transfusion that compiled some of the cases. And that was a good start. And I was definitely working on this presentation as late as last night. So I’m glad it came together. I am a bit of a procrastinator. But that’s how it all happened.
Let’s see, Ben asks, “Apart from law, what do you think about the ethical argument from religious freedom or religious pluralism, that being pro-life depends on controversial/contested views about the grounds of personal identity and dignity, and so no one view should be legislated for by a pluralist society?” The problem is that your law is going to pick a line. That’s what laws do. That pluralism argument, treats birth like it’s a neutral line; it’s not. The law is going to pick a line and every line is going to offend somebody. That’s just life in a democracy. So I don’t find that argument particularly persuasive from our loyal opposition. I would go a step farther and say that the only neutral way to go about this is to say that human rights begin when human life begins. And that has to be defined in a scientific way, rather than a philosophical way, because all of these different guideposts that are being posed bear a lot of resemblance to ensoulment, which would be an establishment of religion. I hope that makes sense.
“Given your rationale, how would any abortion be legal without demonstrating an exceptional need such as life of the mother?” I do oppose abortion other than for the life of the mother. Under Dobbs, the state – it is still a state-by-state thing – the 14th Amendment argument is definitely beyond the scope of what I can do in the next nine minutes. But the idea is that the people of a state, through their legislatures, demonstrate what the interests of the state are, right? So Florida or – take Alabama, right? Alabama has enacted pretty strong anti-abortion legislation post-Dobbs. That is an indication that the state of Alabama has a compelling interest in preventing abortion and protecting human life. California obviously does not think that it has that compelling interest. I don’t know if I’m answering your question. But I hope that helps.
“How can interested people get involved with Secular Pro-Life and what are your current needs?” Yeah, definitely you can get involved in Secular Pro-Life. We are always in need of volunteers. We look for people to write guest pieces on our blog. We look for translators. We want to get our message out in languages other than English. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can email our executive director Monica at email@example.com and get connected to some volunteer opportunities that way. And you can also donate via our website or our Facebook page.
“In Canada not long ago, an immigrant couple were convicted of the honor killing of their daughter. The couple sincerely believed that it was their moral duty to kill their daughter, but the majority in Canada (fortunately in the case of that issue, and unfortunately perhaps [with respect to] some other issues) imposed their views on the minority. Sometimes it is good to impose views — not a question, [just] a comment supporting something you said.” Yeah, that’s an excellent example. I would stick with the Jehovah’s Witness example just because it’s a little less inflammatory. I’m not in the habit of comparing pro-choice people to supporters of honor killings if I don’t have to. I think the Jehovah’s Witness comparison is more diplomatic and civil. But on principle, yes, you are correct. The the same reasons that you shouldn’t be able to claim a religious exemption to commit an honor killing are the same reasons that you shouldn’t be able to claim a religious exemption to have abortion.
“Yeah, neutrality just seems impossible here. No neutrality when lives are on the line.”
Oh! Maria wrote, “We will be publishing a handful of the session recordings on our YouTube in the coming weeks, but all attendees should have immediate access to all the recordings for re-watch on Hopin on Monday and that access will last for a full year.” Thank you. Maria. I’m guessing that’s only for people who bought a ticket, though. I don’t think Catholics for Choice bought a ticket. It’s their loss. It’s their loss.
Okay, we’ve got about five more minutes together and I think I went through everybody’s questions. We might end earlier, which is a secular miracle for a conference like this.
I see Lea is on Team Westlaw. Yes, Westlaw all the way. I don’t use Lexis. Never have.
And Herb says, “Thank you, Kelsey.” Herb, did you wanna come into the presentation and say anything?
Herb Geraghty: I was gonna do that, and then I just realized I’m in the same room as Kane who is on a panel right now, so never mind; I’m leaving.
Yes, Secular Miracle would be a great band name, absolutely Rey!
“Can you maybe [comment on] conscience rights for physicians? It’s a big problem here in Canada.” I unfortunately don’t know much at all about Canadian law. To my knowledge, Canada doesn’t have something like RFRA. So I am unfortunately not the person to ask. But, yeah, RFRA certainly can be used for conscience protections in some situations. That wasn’t within the scope of what I was researching for this presentation, but I have seen that anecdotally. The danger there, of course, is that you’re treating objection to abortion as inherently religious, which it isn’t. Okay, anything else?
“Always heard Canada is pretty bad for conscience rights.” Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard also.
“What do you think of efforts to argue for pro-life conclusions within religions on specifically religious grounds? E.g., do you think Catholics should be arguing against Catholics for Choice, primarily just using general moral arguments to avoid creating the impression that it’s really a religious issue, or do you think there’s a role for intra-religious debates to be more, well, religious?” I think that if you are part of a religious community, and members of your community are out doing stupid things or unethical things, you should go get your guy. I have no problem with you using a religious argument with someone that you know to be religious. Now if you’re in a public Twitter argument with Catholics for Choice, then maybe consider that you’re not so much trying to persuade them. You’re trying to persuade the onlookers. So in that case you might take a more secular route. But yeah, individually, like in a one-on-one or small group setting, if you are speaking with co-religionists, I don’t have a problem with you using a religious argument. That’s your business. I’m an atheist; that’s not my realm at all.
“That’s the problem we’re having. Conscience is always being framed as religious, but conscience is not itself exclusive to religion.” Yeah. That kind of gets back to my point earlier about Satanism being considered a religion. And you can see that also in conscientious objector rules for the military. You do not have to be religious to claim an interest in pacifism.
“I read about a pastor who has a ‘ministry’ flying women from places where abortion is illegal to get abortions legally.” That’s just gross.
Okay, I think we are done. Thank you all so much for your time. I am going to maybe hang out a little bit at the Secular Pro-Life Expo booth if anybody wants to continue this conversation. Thank you so much for dropping in, and for asking such thoughtful questions.