Catholic Charities files lawsuit against the State of California

A law passed in 1999 included a requirement that would force Catholic hospitals to provide employee insurance coverage for artificial contraception. This has resulted in a lawsuit against the state. An application for a preliminary injunction is to be heard in a Sacramento Court in late August.


Irish Committee may recommend abortion in Ireland

It has been reported that Brian Lenihan, chairman of the Oireachtas committee which has been considering the issue of abortion in the Irish Republic, believes a consensus exists to advise rejection of an outright constitutional ban. He believes the committee’s recommendation will be to allow abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at risk. In view of this possibility, the Project submission to the Committee was timely.


Pharmacy Practice cites Ward, criticizes freedom of conscience in pharmacy

While Pharmacy Practice has not yet published the Project’s response, (e-mailed 13 July) an editorial against freedom of conscience in pharmacy appears in the July issue. It not only quotes Marianne Meed Ward’s accusation of selfishness with approval, but compares conscientious objectors in pharmacy to a ‘Deep South’ (USA) bigot who refused to serve blacks in his restaurant.


Responses to Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal

The Project submitted a response to the Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal, directing attention to significant errors in Frank Archer’s legal analysis of human rights law on accommodation of religious or moral belief, and challenging prejudicial remarks made about conscientious objectors in his review. A second critical article by a constitutional lawyer was also submitted to the Journal.


Project letter to the editor, Pharmacy Practice

NAPRA, the Canadian Pharmacy Association and New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Yukon and Alberta colleges or associations of pharmacy have stonewalled efforts from outside the profession to discuss freedom of conscience in pharmacy. Gordon Stueck’s invitation to serious, open dialogue on the subject is welcome (“Here we go again…” Pharmacy Practice, May 2000). One hopes it will encourage a change of attitude among those governing the profession. This is particularly important if, as Mr. Stueck states, a significant number of pharmacists object to dispensing Preven for reasons of conscience.

Mr. Stueck suggests that the proper context for such discussion is “the role of the pharmacist in today’s society”, and puts forward an argument against freedom of conscience based on economic self-interest. His primary concern is that the monopoly that pharmacists now enjoy in dispensing prescription drugs will be endangered if too many pharmacists refuse to dispense certain drugs for moral or religious reasons. What this amounts to is an assertion that economic self-interest is a greater good that should be protected at the expense of lesser goods – like freedom of conscience and religion.

Is economic self-interest a greater good than freedom of conscience and religion? Perhaps, in Mr. Stueck’s view, it is, but his view has not been dominant in the histories of liberal democracies, and it is not reflected in the Charter of Rights. The Charter guarantees freedom of conscience and religion- not economic self-interest.

Mr. Strueck’s assertion notwithstanding, public policy in Canada is rarely, in practice, determined by everyone in society, but by those in power. The rejection of the Charlottetown Accord in the nationwide referendum was a singular exception to the general rule. The results of other referenda have been ignored when they have conflicted with the views of public policy makers.

Whatever ‘public policy’ might be with respect to this drug or that, suppression of freedom of conscience and religion is not acknowledged by any authority to be a matter of public policy in Canada.

It should not become the policy of a professional association.

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project