Monday, February 20, 2012

Personal Conscience and Religious Freedom - as related to recent national events - February 20, 2012

1) Judaism defines personhood as the moment when the head of a fetus/baby emerges from the womb. Some might define personhood as "viability" - when a child can survive on its own with minimal assistance outside the womb. What begins at conception is potential human life, not full human life. Throughout a pregnancy, the mother's life takes precedence. 2) Judaism has sometimes mandated abortion based on a woman's health - mental or physical. One scholar in this field has stated that "pain" or "shame" can be a reason for abortion. This would likely include rape or incest. 3) Even some Orthodox authorities have approved of stem cells taken from a frozen embryo because if that embryo is not implanted in a mother's womb, it is not potential human life. 4) Reform Judaism and even Catholicism allows for members to exercise informed conscience, coming to a decision on one's own after appropriate consideration and personal contemplation. 5) Government policy should allow for religious people and institutions to have freedom to follow their beliefs in what they do offer but should not be restrictive of all citizens because of the views of one particular group. 6) I would consider any public policy that would define personhood begnning at conception, and that would restrict all uses of contraception, as being against Jewish law. People of all religions should be able to follow their conscience. 7) A compromise that connects each person to a health insurance provider directly speaks to the informed conscience of each individual. This offers freedom from religious coercion and promotes the principle of informed conscience. 8) Any congressional laws that would allow an employer to restrict contraception for any reason could, if the laws are influenced by a particular religious viewpoint, violate the establishment of religion clause of the constitution. 9) No religion should rely on government to enforce its own stands among its members, or claim that a law or rule would discourage its members from following their faith. That relationship should be based on the moral force of a religious group among its members.

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