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A Tale of Nine Nurses: Punishing Religious Beliefs

Chuck Colson | BreakPoint | Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Tale of Nine Nurses: Punishing Religious Beliefs

May 4, 2010

A woman—just 14 weeks pregnant—arrived at Nassau University Medical Center in New York, her water broken. Doctors told her that her tiny baby could not survive and recommended an abortion to avoid infection. The mother agreed. But eight nurses on duty that day refused to take part in the abortion. The baby, they said, still had a heartbeat, and the mother's life was not in danger.

The medical center has a policy of not requiring nurses to participate in abortions if they have moral objections. State and federal law backs up this policy. Nevertheless, the eight nurses say they have often been pressured to assist in abortions. And this time, their refusal led to disciplinary action. The nurses were all suspended.

Happily, their labor union came to their aid. The hospital's actions against the nurses, the union said, "goes against protocol…and the law." The hospital backed down and apologized to the nurses. Good. You can read the story of this here.

But a similar case did not have such a happy ending.

Last year, Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital, was ordered to take part in a non-emergency, late-term abortion—despite her known pro-life views. Do it, she was told, or you'll lose your nursing license. Cenzon-DeCarlo reluctantly agreed—and then filed state and federal lawsuits against Mount Sinai.

The Alliance Defense Fund is representing Cenzon-DeCarlo, arguing that forcing her to assist in taking the life of a 22-week pre-born child is, "illegal, unethical, and a violation of Cathy's rights of conscience as a devout Catholic." The ADF says Mt. Sinai violated state laws and intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon her.

Cenzon-DeCarlo, an immigrant, appears to know more about what America stands for than her employers. As she put it, "I emigrated to this country in the belief that here, religious freedom is sacred. Doctors and nurses shouldn't be forced to abandon their beliefs and participate in abortion in order to keep their jobs."

Cenzon-DeCarlo is absolutely right. But more and more often we are hearing stories of Americans being denied these rights. Alan Sears, with the Alliance Defense Fund, has written a great article about this at ColsonCenter.org. He quotes Chai Feldblum, appointed by President Obama to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. According to Feldblum, "Protecting one group's identity may, at times, require that we burden others' belief liberty."

In other words, private religious beliefs should not be tolerated, but punished.

This is frightening—and the reason that I joined with other leaders to draft the Manhattan Declaration, which has now been signed by nearly 450,000 people. It's a movement of people courageous enough to take a principled stand on the critical moral issues of our time, especially religious liberty. You can sign your own name to it by visiting ManhattanDeclaration.org, or pass it on to your friends.

You can also visit ColsonCenter.org tomorrow for my Two-Minute Warning on this very subject.

This week we mark the National Day of Prayer—a good reminder of our need to pray, but also of our need to defend our faith.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.