Culture Friday: The medical industry’s slippery slope

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday the 12th of October, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

A case in the U.K. that’s been going on now for 4 years has finally come to an unambiguous close. It was was set up as a clash between religious freedom and gay rights. The facts are nearly identical to a landmark case here in the United States. They both involve custom cake bakeries owned by Christian families and gay customers who ordered cakes from them that would communicate a message. Here in this country, the Supreme Court came down on the side of the bakers, but the reasoning was a little murky. In fact, it was murky enough that that baker finds himself dragged back into the legal process, fighting essentially the same battle all over again.

But in the United Kingdom, the UK’s Supreme Court issued a brief opinion that took less than 8 minutes to read in full from the bench. It left no doubt.

Here’s the bakery owner Daniel McArthur of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

MCARTHUR: The judges have given a clear signal today, in fact, it couldn’t be clearer: family businesses like ours are free to focus on giving all their customers the best service they can without being forced to promote other people’s campaigns.

EICHER: Gareth Lee had been a regular customer of Ashers Bakery in Belfast. In 2014, he ordered a cake with the images of the muppet characters Bert and Ernie, and above them the slogan “Support Gay Marriage.”

Daniel McArthur turned him down. Gareth Lee sued, and succeeded with the argument that he’d been the victim of sexual orientation discrimination and discrimination on the basis of political belief.

But the U.K. Supreme Court took a more careful reading of the actual facts of the case.

Listen to Lady Hale. She’s president of the Supreme Court.

HALE: The bakers did not refuse to fulfill his order because of his sexual orientation. They would have refused to make such a cake for any customer, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Their objection was to the message on the cake and not to the personal characteristics of Mr. Lee or of anyone else with whom he was associated.

EICHER: The U.K. Supreme Court sought to affirm legal protection for homosexuals and the political rights of those seeking to change laws. The “Support Gay Marriage” cake in 2014 was one man’s expression of support for a constitutional amendment in Ireland. The amendment passed in 2015 and same-sex couples there now have the right to obtain marriage licenses and be recognized by the state as legally married.

But the court also sought to protect the right of individuals not to be compelled to express viewpoints that run counter to their religious beliefs. In the end, the court concluded not that religious freedom outweighed gay rights or political rights. But that the man claiming discrimination had not been discriminated against. Moreover, he had no right to violate the rights of the bakery owner. Case closed.

AUDIO: The bakers could not refuse to supply their goods to Mr. Lee because he was a gay man or supported gay marriage. But that is quite different from obliging them to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed. The fair employment and treatment order should not be read and given effect in such a way to compel them to do so. This conclusion is not in any way to diminish the need to protect gay people and people who support gay marriage from discrimination. It is deeply humiliating and an affront to human dignity to deny someone a service because of that person’s race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, or belief. But that is not what happened in this case.

EICHER: It’s Culture Friday and time now to welcome John Stonestreet. He’s president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Good morning to you.


EICHER: John, I’m struck by the clarity of this case. I mentioned it took less than eight minutes for the president of the U.K. high court to read the unanimous ruling here. If you take the majority opinion, the concurring opinions, and the dissents, the whole body of work of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Masterpiece case totaled 60 printed pages. It would take probably two hours to read it aloud.

Real economy of expression here.

What do you say?

STONESTREET: I would be much more grateful if the Masterpiece decision read like the decision that came out from the UK high court this week and not really because it’s shorter but because it’s so clear and it gets to the heart of the issue. In Masterpiece, Justice Kennedy spent pages and pages and pages talking about the animus of how Jack Phillips was treated. And, of course, all of that was true, but of course never quite got around to the specifics of — that someone doesn’t have to be forced to bake a cake that promotes a message or celebrates a practice that they disagree with, and that’s at the heart of what we mean by religious freedom and freedom of speech.

But I guess one of the distinguishing factors, perhaps, was that these were actually words that the baker in the UK was asked to put on a cake. In Jack Phillips’ case, of course, it was a cake for a ceremony. Everyone knows the message that a wedding cake at a wedding ceremony gives, so — and the court has in the past ruled that art is considered speech, so to me Jack’s case is just about as clear as this case was in the UK.

But this is a helpful decision not just because of its brevity, but because of its ability to make a distinction and this is what the LGBT activists and those who are promoting their cause refuse to make, is a distinction between discriminating against a person, not providing service at a restaurant and being forced to say a message in the services that you provide. That’s a distinction we’re going to have to make. If we aren’t able to make that distinction in our country, then religious freedom really doesn’t have a future at least when it comes to the marketplace.

EICHER: In about three months, the Canadian Council of Academies is due to issue a report to parliament. The report is supposed to be about the medical consensus on extending euthanasia in Canada. And so this news is significant:

Canada’s oldest English-language Catholic paper, the Catholic Register, carried this report, and I’ll quote:

“In a prestigious medical journal, doctors from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children have laid out policies and procedures for administering medically assisted death to children, including scenarios where the parents would not be informed until after the child dies.”

One more paragraph:

“The proposed policy for [the children’s hospital] argues that there is no meaningful ethical distinction between a patient choosing to refuse burdensome treatment and accepting an inevitable death versus patients who choose to die by chemical injection before the disease brings on death. Legally, Ontario does not require parents to be involved in a capable minor’s decision to refuse further treatment, therefore there is no legal reason to require parent involvement in an assisted death.”

That’s the policy of the major children’s hospital in Toronto. And you can be certain this will be the portrayal of the medical consensus. And this will guide public policymaking.

Reminder, Canada legalized euthanasia in 2016 and now we’re talking about parents of sick kids being shut out of the decision-making loop on active euthanasia.

Things are moving fast.

STONESTREET: Part of my question is what do you mean by “it’s moving fast?”

I mean, it’s moving fast because these things seem fast, but this is just what happens when you legalize death. The slippery slope is slippery, it’s greased. We’re headed down the hill. This is happening at the same speed at which we have seen these things advance in other nations and it’s grabbing on like a snowball to other groups of people, other vulnerable individuals, and kind of including them into this move. And the move starts with the right to die and it ends with the duty to die. It starts with the freedom to alleviate one’s suffering, and it ends with the expectation to not be a burden on others. And it starts with this — with words like “the condition is terminal” and then it goes to “the condition is incurable.”

You have doctors that are going to be concerned about malpractice so you have the insurance and the lawsuits that are coming to play in this, but that’s just what happens when you draw these kind of arbitrary lines that move from person to person based on subjectivity and you change a doctor’s job description.

I mean think about that. A doctor who took a Hippocratic Oath, a doctor who committed to help never hurt, to cure never harm and now this doctor under this policy is now having pressure put on him to acknowledge the request of a minor that this doctor assist in ending his life without parents’ knowledge or consent. What a change for medical professionals and who they are.

And you’ve already had a big exodus in the medical profession in Canada of doctors getting out of this business or pre-opting out of anything having to do with euthanasia because of these sorts of risks.

So, that’s just our neighbor to the north and we’re at, what, six or seven states that have doctor-assisted suicide, you’ve got the media and the arts and the so-called push for autonomy. This is a force to be reckoned with.

You know, Nick, I’ve been thinking a lot about next year being the 10th anniversary of the Manhattan Declaration, 2019, that statement about life, marriage, and religious liberty. And the last line of that document is “We’ll ungrudgingly render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but can never render to Caesar what belongs to God.” At the time, the state was only laying claim on half of one of those areas, which is the life issue, specifically the beginning of life. Now 10 years later, we’re in a situation in which the state lays claim over all three. And not only the beginning of life, but the end of life, as this story reveals from our northern neighbors but here increasingly as well. And, of course, we have the state laying claim on marriage and laying claim on religious liberty.

So this becomes a matter of clarity of conscience for Christians. Where are we going to stand? It’s going to infringe, not just our private conviction, not just whether we’re going to get made fun of at cocktail parties, but whether we have a future in the public square not just in being a voice for what’s true, but actually just having our career. And I think that’s going to be increasingly an issue in which Christians are going to have to revisit documents like the Manhattan Declaration to figure out where the line is.

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday, John, thanks so much. We’ll talk to you next time.

STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick.

(Photo/Alex Proimos, Flickr)

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