How Ethical Are These Directives?

Since I put up yesterday’s post about the Catholic hospital telling nearly all of the OB-GYNs in town that they can no longer prescribe birth control, I’ve been told that this is, in fact, illegal. Ophelia confirms that the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Atheists are both looking into this matter. Step one, which is hard to do on a Sunday, is to confirm that Ascension Health really intended to give Bartlesville OB-GYNs this message and intends to stand by this now that it’s received some publicity–that it’s neither a miscommunication nor a “miscommunication”. I’ll update here or in a separate post as I hear more.

Meanwhile, via Mano (and Pteryxx) comes the news of a probably doomed lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over the same Ethical And Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services (pdf) that is in play in the Ascension Health situation. The impetus for the lawsuit is a case very much like Savita Halappanavar’s but not resulting in death. In this case, however, the patient was not even given enough information to ask for her miscarrying fetus to be aborted to protect her health.

While the article at ProPublica indicates that the lawsuit may not hold up, it also highlights how big a problem we’re looking at.

The ACLU and women’s groups have been voicing concern since the 1990s about the growing role of Catholic health care operations around the country and what they see as the resulting threats posed to women’s reproductive rights. Those complaints have grown louder in recent years as Catholic facilities have moved aggressively to merge with secular hospitals and reports have surfaced about the challenges – some say contortions — that doctors and nurses have sometimes had to face to comply with church teachings on abortion, birth control, and end-of-life care while fulfilling their duty to patients.

Catholic hospitals now account for about 16 percent of hospital beds in the U.S. And in eight states — including Washington, Oregon, Iowa, and Missouri — they control more than 30 percent of beds. Ten of the 25 largest health-care networks in the country are Catholic-sponsored.

That’s an awful lot of people subject to those Ethical And Religious Directives, and frequently without another reasonable choice. An awful lot of those beds are in more isolated communities like Bartlesville, making the next-nearest hospital both far away and likely to itself be a Catholic hospital. That makes this statement from the Ethical And Religious Directives even more absurd.

When the health care professional and the patient use institutional Catholic health care, they also accept its public commitment to the Church’s understanding of and witness to the dignity of the human person.

People don’t have other real options, and they’re not being asked to affirmatively make an educated choice about this matter. It’s being aggressively pushed on them and spread to more and more hospitals. Their acceptance comes not by choice but by declaration of the bishops.

So what are people “accepting” when their local hospital gets bought out or merged? [Read more…]

A Town Without Contraception

I used to live in Bartlesville, OK. It was just a short stop–six weeks–in the year of living in four towns. It’s a good thing we didn’t stay for a lot of reasons, but now I have one more.

Confidential sources told the Examiner-Enterprise this week that a meeting was held Wednesday to inform local doctors of gynecology and obstetrics that they can no longer prescribe contraceptives of any kind — if they are to be used as birth control.

How could this happen? [Read more…]

This Is What a Witch Hunt Looks Like

Dr. Skyskull, in addition to being one of our funniest Mock the Movie participants, blogs about history. His usual topic is the history of physics, but he runs across other interesting tidbits too. About a week ago, he pointed at this translation of a contemporary description of a persecution for witchcraft. I thought it might help our community to see what a witch hunt actually looked like.

On Friday, June 30, 1628, the aforesaid Junius was again without torture exhorted to confess, but again confessed nothing, whereupon, . . . since he would confess nothing, he was put to the torture, and first the [Page 24] Thumb-screws were applied. Says he has never denied God his Saviour nor suffered himself to be otherwise baptized; [1] will again stake his life on it; feels no pain in the thumb-screws.

Leg-screws. Will confess absolutely nothing [and] knows nothing about it. He has never renounced God; will never do such a thing; has never been guilty of this vice; feels likewise no pain.

Is stripped and examined; on his right side is found a bluish mark, like a clover leaf, is thrice pricked therein, but feels no pain and no blood flows out.

Strappado. He has never renounced God; God will not forsake him; if he were such a wretch he would not let himself be so tortured; God must show some token of his innocence. He knows nothing about witchcraft. . . .

On July 5, the above named Junius is without torture, but with urgent persuasions, exhorted to confess, and at last begins and confesses:

It’s just like the blogosphere, isn’t it?

Why We Marry, Part 2: The State

A while ago, Tauriq asked why we should get married. In The Guardian, he argued that we shouldn’t, or at least that he shouldn’t.

I, on the other hand, have spent the last few months deep in Minnesota Atheists’ work on getting marriage law changed so that atheist and humanist celebrants don’t have to declare themselves religious or be recognized by organizations that identify as religious in order to have the state recognize the ceremonies they perform as legal marriages. This means I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people who perform nonreligious ceremonies and to people who have been married in nonreligious ceremonies about why these ceremonies are important to people. I’ve spent somewhat less time talking to legislators about the state’s concerns with the changes we’re asking for.

It also means I’ve spent a bunch of time answering questions about why we’re involved in the issue at all. There are two that are incredibly common in various forms. Why should we take an interest in marriage? Why are we supporting the idea that the state should take an interest in marriage? I’d like to address both of these questions. I’ll split them into separate posts, because they are very separate issues.

In Part 1 of this, I addressed marriage as a ceremony, a ritual that signals a commitment and a combining of families. Now it’s time to look at the state’s interest in marriage, because it does have a legitimate one.
[Read more…]

“No One Else Has Done More”

Via Ophelia comes the news that the sweet, friendly, new pope that everyone loves has a rosy outlook that extends to the coverup and facilitation of child sexual abuse by the Church.

“The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No-one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked,” he said in an interview with Il Corriere della Sera daily published Wednesday.

The same article notes that the Vatican has been denounced by the United Nations for appalling response to allegations of abuse. Commenters at Ophelia’s compare the response to allegations in the Church and at the local school, finding the Vatican wanting. They point out that the Vatican is a haven for those running from facing the problem. Me, though? I think it’s time to check back in with Minnesota Public Radio on our own local problem. [Read more…]

Why We Marry, Part 1: The Ceremony

A while ago, Tauriq asked why we should get married. In The Guardian, he argued that we shouldn’t, or at least that he shouldn’t.

I, on the other hand, have spent the last few months deep in Minnesota Atheists’ work on getting marriage law changed so that atheist and humanist celebrants don’t have to declare themselves religious or be recognized by organizations that identify as religious in order to have the state recognize the ceremonies they perform as legal marriages. This means I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people who perform nonreligious ceremonies and to people who have been married in nonreligious ceremonies about why these ceremonies are important to people. I’ve spent somewhat less time talking to legislators about the state’s concerns with the changes we’re asking for.

It also means I’ve spent a bunch of time answering questions about why we’re involved in the issue at all. There are two that are incredibly common in various forms. Why should we take an interest in marriage? Why are we supporting the idea that the state should take an interest in marriage? I’d like to address both of these questions. I’ll split them into separate posts, because they are very separate issues.

So why should a group like Minnesota Atheists take an interest in marriage? In order to answer that, we need to look at why people have marriage rituals at all. [Read more…]

“There Is No LGBTQ Movement”

Someone passed along this post from Steve Ahlquist (yes, Jessica’s uncle), titled, “There is no atheist movement: The American Atheists and CPAC“. The premise of the post is that:

  1. Atheists have no shared values, as demonstrated by American Atheists attempt to pay $3,000 to table at Conservative Political Action Conference;therefore,
  2. There is no atheist movement, because movements have shared values.

The person who shared it with me felt that I would appreciate this argument as akin to the “How can we call ourselves a movement if we welcome behavior that pushes out more people than it invites in?” arguments that we’ve had about movement atheism. (For the record, I think that’s still a movement, just one that’s hobbling itself badly.) As it turns out, I disagree. Ahlquist’s argument only works as long as he leaves out key information. With that information included, his argument instead becomes a framework for understanding American Atheists’ decision. [Read more…]

Another Way to Fleece the Flock

On the way to a meeting last week, I saw a Christian billboard. I see a lot of billboards, but this one caught my eye as being rather unusual. I didn’t get a picture, but since I followed up on the billboard, the advertising is now following me around on the internet too. Here’s a sample.

Banner ad with text: Making Good Bolder. Actors Models & Talent for Christ. plus contact infoYes, boys and girls, God needs your talent to…uh…well….

So I got curious and checked out the website to figure out what was going on. Was there another company like Faith Films that was going to produce unintentional, painful hilarity? Were they looking for unknowns to help them keep their budget, oh, so low?

No. As it turns out, they weren’t looking for people they could pay very little. This group is looking for people to pay them, all for a chance at stardom! [Read more…]

Today in Christian Persecution

Yesterday, Hemant wrote about a student group that came up with a brilliant way to advertise themselves while getting others to think about the flaws of Christian apologetics. They studied up on an apologist who was coming to their school and turned all the bad arguments and logical fallacies into a bingo card, which they then handed out to people entering the talk. It made it easier to focus on the bad arguments instead of their good delivery, and the back of the card provided information on the student group itself. As I said: brilliant.

So I tweeted the article. Then this happened. (The Storify is here if the embed doesn’t work for you.) [Read more…]

Reviewing Marriage Officiant Law

If you’ve been following along here or receive the Minnesota Atheists monthly newsletter, you know we’ve been working toward changing Minnesota marriage law so that religious clergy are not the only non-government-employees who can legally officiate a marriage in Minnesota. We’ve discussed the issue with members of both the state house and state senate. In December, we met with Senator John Marty, who asked us some very good questions about our options for changing the law and the support that these options have.

In response to those questions, we surveyed atheists and secular humanists across Minnesota to get their opinions on the options they would support. The results of that survey appear in this month’s newsletter and will be shared on the Minnesota Atheists website shortly. I’ll link to them when they’re posted.

In addition, Senator Marty also asked how non-government-official, non-religious officiants are handled in the law of other states. Having a research background and finding this sort of digging fun, I volunteered to pull together this information. Below is the information I pulled together, along with links to the relevant law. These are the states that extend the ability to officiate marriages to more than elected officials (mayors, county commissioners, legislators, lieutenant governors, and governors may all officiate in some states) and judges or clerks of the court. Emphasis is mine, to draw attention to the relevant part of the legal code.

Hopefully this will make things easier for any other group that wants to change the law in their state. Be aware, however, that what I quote is a snapshot. Laws change continually, and the information should be verified before being used for another purpose. [Read more…]