Health care providers in Michigan and Wisconsin may receive legal sanction to refuse to participate in abortions or other procedures that violate their consciences, if pending bills pass. Sadly, some are decrying a doctor's right to act morally.

In Wisconsin, Governor Jim Doyle has said he will veto the bill that passed the state Assembly 56-35 and the state Senate 20-13. Doyle says, "You're moving into very dangerous precedent where doctors make moral decisions on what medical care they'll provide." So, he's saying that without this law doctors shouldn't make moral decisions?

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the bill also allows a doctor not to inform patients of treatments that might violate the doctor's conscience. "Doctors could refuse to deliver information about or perform procedures involving abortion, sterilization, human embryos, and fetal tissue or organs." The Journal-Sentinel doesn't tell readers when or how often such objectionable procedures are the only means to treat patients, but it does tell the story of one woman who had an abortion because she developed "a serious blood condition that her doctor said could kill her." As if doctors who refuse to perform abortions because they believe it is murder would give a patient with a life-threatening condition no other treatment options.

In Michigan, the state house voted along partisan lines to give doctors the same kind of discretion. The bills would "protect health care workers and insurers from being fired or sued for refusing to perform a procedure, fill a prescription or cover treatment for something they object to for moral, ethical or religious reasons," according to the Associated Press. The bill does not give pharmacists freedom to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions.

The Michigan Catholic Conference backed the four bills, which give doctors as well as insurers and hospitals the freedom not to perform abortions or other objectionable procedures. Possibly, the California Supreme Court decision forcing Catholic Charities's health plan to pay for birth control had something to do with the Michigan Catholic Conference pushing for the bills.

As in Wisconsin, opponents of the bill pled the slippery slope. "[O]pponents of the bills said they're worried they would allow providers to refuse service for any reason. For example, they said emergency medical technicians could refuse to answer a call from the residence of a gay couple because they don't approve of homosexuality." One gay legislator alarmingly said, "Are you telling me that a health care provider can deny me medical treatment because of my sexual orientation? I hope not."

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Though legislators said that nothing in the bill would deny medical care to anyone, the AP speculates that doctors just might refuse medical service to a homosexual—a ridiculous assertion—as if Christian doctors would refuse to treat gang members or prostitutes or any other sinner. The AP should know better.

More on abortion and life ethics:

  • A call to arms by abortion rights groups | For the first time in 12 years, a coalition of abortion rights advocates will hold what they hope will be a major march in Washington on Sunday, trying to return the issue to the forefront of American politics — and to highlight what they contend is the Bush administration's extremism. (New York Times)

  • Women's marchers, city gear up for mega-rally | Hundreds of thousands of women's rights activists ranging from soccer moms to Hollywood actors are traveling on everything from cars to buses to special "teach-in" trains headed to Washington Sunday for their first major rally in the capital in 12 years. (Washington Post)

  • Take back our rights | The Bush Administration may be mired in confusion and at cross-purposes on many fronts—Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, education—but its assault on women's reproductive freedom has been a marvel of purpose and planning. (The Nation)

  • Mich. votes to protect conscience rights | The state House has voted to protect health care workers and insurers from being fired or sued for refusing to perform a procedure, fill a prescription or cover treatment for something they object to for moral, ethical or religious reasons. (Associated Press)

  • Women's health debate intensifies | Gov. Jim Doyle expected to veto bill on physician care (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

More articles:

Religion and politics:

  • Church group raps Bush on clean air act | A national group of Christian leaders is sending a scathing letter to President Bush to coincide with Earth Day, accusing his administration of chipping away at the Clean Air Act. (Associated Press)

  • Critics say draft of head scarf ban in French schools is too vague | A law banning Muslim head scarves in public schools could add bandannas, used by some women as a substitute for a full head covering, to the blacklist of forbidden dress. Or maybe not. (Associated Press)

  • American Jewish groups back Bush, Sharon | Major American Jewish organizations are praising President Bush's support for Israeli plans to withdraw from Gaza and maintain some settlements in the West Bank — but a few groups are criticizing him. (Associated Press)

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  • Veteran execs launch gospel music channel | Two veteran cable executives plan to start the Gospel Music Channel in the fall, providing a TV outlet for a diverse genre that encompasses soulful church music and Christian rock and rap. (Associated Press)

  • Jesus Christ! TV network accused of blasphemy | An Australian television channel is being taken to court for allowing "Jesus Christ!" to be used as an oath in a British crime series it broadcasts, news reports said on Thursday. (Mail & Guardian, South Africa)

  • Christian takes action against 'blasphemous' TV show | An evangelical Christian from Waranga is taking legal action against Channel Seven over the use of the words "Jesus Christ" in a popular television series, claiming Christian sensitivities need to be considered. (Shepparton News, Australia)

  • TV truth about entertainment | Gibson and other Christians looking to spread the Word found the perfect partner in secular television - specifically the History Channel, A&E, the Discovery Channel, the Learning Channel and other alternatives to derivative sitcoms and bad movies - which increasingly looks to piggyback on big media moments with tie-in documentaries. (Terry Lawson, Knight Ridder)

The Passion:

  • Cinema bombarded with requests for controversial film | Mel Gibson's epic, The Passion of the Christ, was due to open at the Odeon cinema on April 30, but it will now show from tomorrow after staff were bombarded with around 60 letters and many more phone calls from cinemagoers demanding to see it. (Grimsby Evening Telegraph, UK)

  • Gibson's 'Passion' getting a cool reception at networks | Despite being the year's biggest box-office blockbuster so far, "The Passion of the Christ" seems unlikely to find a home on the four biggest broadcast networks. (Associated Press)

  • Church presents a youthful alternative to 'The Passion' | Though many Christians appreciate the sense of renewed spirituality that "The Passion of the Christ" movie has evoked, the blood, anguish, suffering and gore of the movie made it inappropriate for young viewers. (Walnut Creek Journal, CA)

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  • Crossan examination: Jesus scholar looks at 'Passion' and politics of Christ | As poets, priests and politicians—not to mention historians, scholars and film critics—try to figure out if "The Passion of the Christ" is accurate, apocryphal, anti-Semitic, divine or just flat-out wrong, Crossan is a great guy to call up. He just may be the world's foremost authority on Jesus the man, having written books such as "The Historical Jesus," "Who Is Jesus?" and "Who Killed Jesus?" (The Daily News Transcript, Mass.)

  • 'Passion' without the protest | Having little sway, Britain's small Jewish community stayed mostly quiet about Gibson's blockbuster film. (The Jewish Week)



Church life:

  • Gay canon given new post in St Albans | Controversial gay cleric Canon Jeffrey John - forced to give up the chance to become Bishop of Reading - has been appointed to the prestige post of Dean of St Albans. (Reading Chronicle, UK)

  • Protestant churches struggle to fill pulpits | While the worsening shortage of Catholic priests has been a matter of public concern for about three decades, Protestant leaders in the past five years have been anxiously discussing shortages in their own ranks. (The Louisville Courier-Journal, via USA Today)

Missions and ministry:

  • Women's salvation finds a home | The homeless issue is growing so quickly in Hungary that even the most indifferent of people are starting to pay attention. Certainly in the US or in Canada there was a visible number of that sad group of people, but one felt much better knowing the social network of those countries. There was enough sleeping quarters for anyone who accepted a roof over their head. Here the case history is different, people were frozen in the first weeks of winter and there is not enough space - even for women. (Budapest Sun, Hungary)

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War and terrorism:

  • Chaplain's fight: to keep the faith | He always knew that if it came to this, his would be one of the hardest jobs at Camp Marez. But only now, sitting in his cubbyhole office in the back of the camp's Olive Garden Chapel, did Chaplain David Sivret appreciate how hard. (Portland Press, Maine)

  • Biblical Iraq | Writer Bruce Feiler leads a guided tour through Iraqi sites and cities of biblical importance. (Talk of the Nation, NPR)

Religious freedom:

  • Metro Detroit Armenians remember genocide victims | Weekend events to commemorate 89th anniversary of massacre in Turkey (The Detroit News)

  • Human rights group alleges 'huge cover-up' in Central Highlands violence | A human rights group on Thursday accused the Vietnamese government of a massive cover-up following violent demonstrations by ethnic minority Christians in the Central Highlands, claiming at least 10 people were killed and hundreds wounded. (Associated Press)

  • 11 terror suspects in Indonesia's Beteleme go on trial | A prosecutor at Indonesia's Palu District Court indicted on Wednesday that 11 people could be held responsible for a deadly, armed attack in Beteleme village, Morowali regency, in October last year, which left three people dead and at least 35 houses destroyed by fire. (Xinhua, China)

  • 11 Beteleme suspects go on trial, may face death | A prosecutor at Palu District Court indicted on Wednesday 11 people allegedly held responsible for a deadly, armed attack in Beteleme village, Morowali regency, in October last year, which left three people dead and at least 35 houses destroyed by fire. (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)

  • Refugees told to leave state buildings by July | At least 5,460 families of refugees who fled sectarian fighting in the Maluku islands have been given until July to vacate shops and government facilities they have been camping in since 1999. (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)

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  • Which one of the 'seven deadly sins' is deadlier—pride or greed? | In "Greed", Phyllis A. Tickle contends that "greed, by any name, is the mother and matrix, root and consort of all the other sins," the "matriarch of a deadly clan." Lust may be "more socially agreeable" and gluttony "more socially acceptable" to modern Americans, she writes, but greed is "the most social," "the most political" and "the most ubiquitous" of sins. (Richard Ostling, Associated Press)

  • Christian tale takes a page from Harry Potter books | Harry Potter's Christian cousin is about to hit U.S. bookstores. Shadowmancer— a best-selling British fantasy novel dubbed the "Christian Harry Potter" — arrives Tuesday. And though the obvious audience is Christian teens, publishers hope to reach all readers and rival the J.K. Rowling series in sales. (USA Today)

  • Prophecy feeds fires of debate | Preachers, scholars and believers who focus on end-of-the-world prophecies match events in human history with arcane and dramatic clues and messages they find embedded in the Bible, particularly in Daniel, Matthew and the thrilling and puzzling final book, Revelation. (USA Today)

  • Another English-language Bible? Southern Baptists say yes | Is this Bible necessary? That is the question, as the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) enters the cluttered and competitive market for English translations. (Associated Press)


  • Plaintiffs await verdict in Lutheran clergy abuse case | Nine alleged sex abuse victims waited Thursday for a jury's verdict on their claim that a regional Lutheran synod ignored warnings about a minister who preyed on boys. (Denton Record Chronicle, Texas)

  • Deliberations begin in Lutheran abuse case | Jurors began deliberations late Wednesday in a sexual abuse lawsuit involving nine alleged victims who claim a regional Lutheran synod ignored warnings about a minister who preyed on boys. (Associated Press)

  • Both sides rest in Lutheran abuse case | Both sides rested today after seven days of testimony in a sexual abuse lawsuit involving nine alleged victims who claim a regional Lutheran synod ignored warnings about a minister who preyed on boys. (Associated Press)

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  • The divine sociopath | Why isn't Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien in jail? There are far too many who have left the church because of his bad behavior (New Times Phoenix)

  • Sex abuse case involving pastor goes to the jury | Jurors began deliberating late Wednesday in a sexual abuse lawsuit involving nine alleged victims who claim a regional Lutheran synod ignored warnings about a minister who preyed on boys. (Associated Press)

More articles:

  • Amish man's U.S. stay hangs on a photo | For nearly two years, Daniel Zehr, an Amish man from Canada who wants to become an American citizen, has resisted what to others might seem a simple requirement: that he submit his photograph to immigration officials. Doing that, Mr. Zehr argues in a lawsuit, would violate his religious belief that the Bible prohibits posing for photographs. (New York Times)

  • Mormon Church gets ready to open its newest temple, near Lincoln Center | A legacy of misunderstanding and persecution has bred a keen instinct for public relations in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And so, in what has become something of a ritual itself, the Mormon church opens every newly built temple to the public. Then it shuts the doors. (New York Times)

  • Family Values | Randall Terry fights gay unions. His son no longer will (Washington Post)

Related Elsewhere:

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
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Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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