It has been reported by Think Progress that a Republican member of the Michigan Senate by the name of John Moolenaar has authored a bill that would protect health care professionals who choose to discriminate against those whom they find objectionable for either their “religious beliefs, moral convictions, or ethical principles”. The intended target, it would seem, is the LGBT community, but, from what I can tell, if passed, among other things, it would allow Christians to deny service to Muslims, and, one would assume, vice versa. The proposed legislation, known simply as Senate Bill 975, or the “Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act,” just made its way out of the Michigan Senate’s Committee on Health Policy with a favorable review, and it looks as though it may come up for a vote shortly. Here’s how it begins:
A bill to protect religious liberty and rights of conscience in the areas of health care and medical and scientific research as it pertains to employment, education and training, and providing or participating in health care services and to the purchasing of or providing for the purchase of health insurance; to provide immunity from liability; and to prescribe penalties and provide remedies…
As our friends at Think Progress point out, the legislation “also dictates that no public official or entity can deny aid or grants to a facility that discriminates based on conscience, which means that if same-sex recognition changes in Michigan, the state would remain obligated to financially support agencies like Catholic Charities, even if they refuse to serve same-sex couples, as transpired in Illinois.”
I don’t know the history of this particular piece of legislation, but I suspect it may have had it’s origins in what was called the “Julea Ward Freedom Of Conscience Act,” or House Bill 5040. As you’ll recall, that bill, named after a Christian graduate student who had sued Eastern Michigan University, claiming that she was kicked out of the university’s Counseling program after refusing to work with a gay client, passed the Michigan House in June of this year. While Ward’s court case against EMU failed, she became a hero of the bigoted right for her refusal to condone what, in her words, “goes against what the Bible says,” and this resulted in legislation which stated the following.
A public degree or certificate granting college, university, junior college, or community college of this state shall not discipline or discriminate against a student in a counseling, social work, or psychology program because the student refuses to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services.
While the legislation passed the House, though, as far as I can tell, it never came to a vote in the Senate, where it was known as Bill 518. From the looks of it, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Education in June of 2011, and has languished there ever since. Which isn’t to say that the Republican may not try to bring it to a vote. (Some people clearly think that they will, as evidenced by this recent petition against it.) As it’s somewhat similar to this new bill being considered by the Senate, though, I’m wondering if perhaps our Republican Senators decided that the Julea Ward Freedom Of Conscience Act, given that it just empowered Michigan’s bigoted students to discriminate, wasn’t broad enough. At least, it seems to me that Senate Bill 975 is likely an attempt to take the earlier evil idea, and make it more evil, by applying it to everything health care related.
I suspect that the Republican leadership might table this for the time being, like they did with the proposed “tax breaks for fetuses” legislation that we discussed a little while ago, but you never know. They could try to sneak it in during the lame duck session… So, just to be safe, if I were you, I’d call your State Senator tomorrow and let them know not only that you’re disgusted by this anti-gay legislation, but that, if it passes, you intend to refuse treatment to every Christian that comes into the health care facility where you work on the grounds that you find their beliefs objectionable… And, while you’re at it, it might not be a bad idea to contact our State’s chapter of the American Medical Association, and let them know that we expect for them to stay true to the Hippocratic Oath, and fight this with everything they’ve got.