Global Charter of Conscience: A Global Covenant Concerning Faiths and Freedom of Conscience

The Charter has been drafted by people of many faiths and none, politicians of many  persuasions, academics and NGOs, all committed to a partnership on behalf of “freedom  of thought, conscience and religion” for people of all  faiths and none.
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Religion: A Public or a Private Right?

Originally appeared in  Public Discourse:  Ethics, Law, and the Common Good
Online journal of the Witherspoon  Institute of Princeton, NJ

 Susan Hanssen*

Twentieth-century religious liberty jurisprudence developed on the far side of a great historic chasm that separates us from the traditional definition of religion. Between Americans in 2012 and the American founders in 1776 stand William James and the beginnings of the “science of comparative religions.” If we are to grasp the founders’ idea of a natural right to religious liberty, we must perform a labor of historical imagination and recover the longstanding definition of religion that has been lost to us.

The classic book that launched the social scientific approach to the study of religion was James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience (1903). The book was initially his series of lectures at the University of Edinburgh—the prestigious Gifford Lectures. James deliberately refused to accept the usual title “Gifford Lectures in Natural Theology” for his series of talks and chose instead to call them lectures in “Natural Religion.” He assumed that religion was not, as the word “theology” implied, subject to any rational justification. Rather, he saw religion as essentially experiential and the study of religion as essentially empirical—the collection of a variety of accounts of wildly divergent spiritual experiences. . . [Read more]

Why ‘public’ should not mean ‘atheist’

The Ottawa Citizen

Iain Benson*

Nothing in our theories or history should support turning religious believers and their communities into second-class citizens when it comes to public involvement and funding. In short, atheism and agnosticism ought not to be favoured public claimants in Canada any longer. . .
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Rights Commission threat “blasphemy against the human spirit”

College of Physicians secrecy said unacceptable


For Immediate Release

Protection of Conscience Project

“Blasphemy against the human spirit.” That is how the Protection of Conscience Project describes a threat by Ontario’s Human Rights Commission to punish doctors who refuse to do what they believe to be wrong. The rebuke is found in a submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

Citing writers and philosophers in the democratic tradition, as well as the landmark Morgentaler decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Project argues that to force doctors to act against their conscientious convictions is “to deprive them of their essential humanity.” It calls the proposed policy “profoundly offensive and demeaning.”

“To abandon one’s moral or ethical convictions in order to serve others is prostitution,” states the submission, “not professionalism.”

The brief denies that doctors who refuse to do what they believe is wrong are violating the Human Rights Code. It explains that they are concerned about “complicity in wrongdoing,” not race, sex or other patient characteristics.

The Project submission addresses the College draft policy, Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code. Deadline for comment on the policy was extended to 12 September following protests when news of it became public.

The President of the College told the National Post that the draft has been revised, but refuses to make it public. Project Administrator Sean Murphy finds College secrecy unacceptable.

“At least two substantial briefs reached the College only on Friday,” he said. “The National Post story appeared Saturday. It seems very unlikely that College officials could have considered either submission before revising the draft. This brings into question the validity of the consultation process.”

“But the more important issue,” he said, “is that decision-making that impacts fundamental freedoms should be conducted transparently, not secretly. Why keep the revised draft secret? Is there something to hide?”


Proposed policy could severely limit freedom of Ontario physicians

Canadian Physicians for Life

For Immediate Release

(Ottawa) – In a letter today to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the president of Canadian Physicians for Life, Dr. Will Johnston, expressed concern over a draft policy relating to freedom of conscience and the lack of sufficient notice given by CPSO to all interested stakeholders that a consultation process, which officially ends today, has been underway since the end of June.

Canadian Physicians for Life is asking the College for a 90-day extension on the deadline “due to the importance of the issues at stake and the lack of opportunity interested stakeholders were given to comment on the proposal.”

The draft policy, that CPL only learned of late yesterday, would appear to severely limit the freedom of Ontario physicians to practice according to their conscientious/religious beliefs. The College apparently posted the draft policy document, “Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code” on its website at the end of June and had set a deadline of today for input on the proposal.

In his letter, Dr. Johnston expressed surprise that the College would not have been more proactive in soliciting input on a policy that could have profound impact on both individual doctors and on the profession as a whole. CPSO does not appear to have issued a news release on the consultation process, and pro-life physicians have been taken by surprise.

Dr. Johnston wrote, “The College must have been aware that groups such as Canadian Physicians for Life — which represents doctors from across Canada who respect the dignity of all human life, regardless of age or infirmity — would have concerns with the College’s view that “decisions to restrict medical services offered….that are based on moral or religious belief may contravene the [Ontario Human Rights] Code, and/or constitute professional misconduct.”

“Refusal on conscientious or religious grounds to refer a woman for an abortion could be deemed professional misconduct under this new policy,” Dr. Johnston said.

A similar requirement (that doctors must make abortion referrals regardless of their conscientious beliefs) was put forward in a July 2006 guest editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It triggered such a firestorm of controversy, that the Journal was compelled to publish a letter from CMA’s Director of Ethics stating that CMA policy did not require physicians to refer for abortions if it would violate their conscientious or religious beliefs.

Dr. Johnston concluded, “There could be serious problems with what the Ontario College is proposing and we need time to study the implications of this policy in detail. If doctors feel coerced into compromising their deepest convictions as a result of this policy, certainly that’s a problem-not only for the integrity of physicians, but also for the welfare of their patients.”

For further comment, please contact:
Will Johnston, MD, President
Canadian Physicians for Life
ph: 613-728-5433

Canadian Physicians for Life is an educational organization representing physicians who hold that reverence for every human life lies at the root of all medical tradition. Through the ages, this tradition has been expressed in the Oath of Hippocrates. It was rephrased in modern times in the Declaration of Geneva (1948), which says in part, “I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of conception; even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity.”

Freedom of conscience and religion not a defence


For Immediate Release

Protection of Conscience Project

Ontario physicians are being advised that they are expected to give up freedom of conscience if they wish to practise medicine in the province. The expectation is set out in “Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code,” a draft policy document from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

The document responds to legislative changes, which, according to the Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, will see a twenty-fold increase in hearings before the Tribunal – from 150 to 3,000 cases per year.

According to the College, the Tribunal may take action against a physician who refuses to provide or refer for procedures that he finds morally objectionable. The College strongly suggests that the physician’s freedom of conscience and religion will be ignored because “there is no defence for refusing to provide a service” in such circumstances.

In addition to the possibility of prosecution by the Human Rights Tribunal, the College states that it will consider the Human Rights Code in adjudicating complaints of professional misconduct, even though the College admits that it lacks the expertise and authority in human rights.

The College also plans to force objecting physicians to actively assist patients to obtain morally controversial services. A similar demand – that objectors be forced to refer patients for abortion – generated fierce opposition when it appeared in a 2006 guest editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The College posted the draft policy for consultation near the end of June, with a response deadline of 15 August. The Project, noting that there was no news release about the draft and that “the mid-summer timing of the consultation is less than satisfactory,” has asked the College to extend the deadline by 90 days.

“Commentators like Rex Murphy, Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant have condemned Canadian human rights commissions for suppressing freedom of expression,” noted Sean Murphy, Administrator of the Protection of Conscience Project. “Perhaps we should not be surprised to see them now being used to suppress freedom of conscience and religion among medical professionals.”

Pluralism, Religion and Public Policy

Preston Manning*

An address delivered at the McGill University conference on Pluralism, Religion and Public Policy.

People of faith – and there are millions of such people in Canada – need guidelines on how to bring faith perspectives to bear on public policy in a winsome rather than an offensive way. And public policy makers in our pluralistic society – many of whom regard faith perspectives with suspicion if not outright hostility – need to learn how to incorporate such perspectives into their deliberations rather than exclude them. . . 
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Christians and civil disobedience

Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Background Paper

John H. Redekop*


A basic requirement for the functioning of civil society, especially in a democracy, is that citizens, generally speaking, should obey the laws of the land.  Christians and most, if not all, other religious groups accept that principle as an over-arching reality.  The logic is compelling. If citizens, in substantial numbers, would take the law into their own hands and individually decide which laws to obey and which to disobey, then anarchy might result rather quickly.  The theory is clear and essentially true but the practical situation is sometimes more complicated.

What is to be done by responsible and highly moral citizens if certain laws are inherently evil?  What should citizens do if the government of the day pressures them to violate their conscience on a fundamental principle?  What should they do if their government suddenly denies them the most basic of freedoms?  We know from history as well as from the present global situation that Christians often encounter laws which are unjust and simply wrong.  The Christian response is clear. . . [Read on]

There Are No Secular Unbelievers

Centrepoints Spring, 2000

Iain T. Benson*

Mr. Benson draws attention to the erroneous notion that  “secular” means “faith-free”. He argues that this error is  transmitted through the culture and imposed by the courts, thus allowing the “implicit faith” of atheists and agnostics  to dominate and displace all others. “Why,” he asks, “should the opinions of those who don’t know or refuse to articulate what they believe dominate those who can say what they believe in and why they think it matters?” Full Text