Living by convictions

The right to live by one’s personal convictions – even if they are not popular – made the headlines in a couple of Associated Press stories last week; one originated in the world of college theater; the other in the halls of Congress.
While most actors and actresses have accepted the increasingly flagrant use of four letter words and the taking of the Lord’s name in vain in plays and movies, at least one student objected. Christina Axson-Flynn of Utah, wanted to study theater at the university, but she did not want to talk that way, not even in a play. Her theater professor was not pleased. Fearing retaliation, she withdrew from the university and eventually sued the university in federal court, accusing it of violating her to right to freedom of speech and religion. While some protest that they have a right to say what they want, Axson-Flynn insisted that she should have the right to study without having to say personally objectionable words.
Last week, after six years, the university agreed to let students opt out of activities that conflict with their religious belief. Axson-Flynn will be reimbursed for her lost tuition and can re-enroll if she wishes. She plans, however, to attend a different school.
The school’s attorney John Morris sought to ease some professors’ fears that under the settlement, students would be able pressure faculty to change the curriculum. Morris explained that under the settlement, a student’s request to be excused from a class exercise on the grounds of religion is allowed, as it was in the past. However, the settlement establishes a policy that the student needs the approval of a professor, a dean or a university vice president to be excused for religious reasons.
Axson-Flynn does not expect that her religious beliefs about language will interfere with her career choice. After all, both of her parents are successful actors and they hold similar religious beliefs.
A few more like that in the profession would go a long ways towards reducing the verbal cringe factor at the movies.
In Washington, one man is trying to make a difference for health care providers whose personal convictions will not allow them to support abortion. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., proposed an amendment to next year’s $142.5 billion health, education and labor programs that would making it easier for hospitals, health insurers and others to refuse to provide or cover abortions, even if they do receive federal funds.
As the law now stands, providers must tell women with an unwanted pregnancy that abortion is an option. Weldon’s amendment would also prohibit any level of governmental agency from receiving federal funding if they take action against a health care provider, hospital, health insurer or managed care organization which does not cover, provide or make references for abortions.
“This is an issue of conscience,” said Weldon, who is a doctor.
His amendment is not a done deal, but last week it made it out of the House Appropriations Committee with voice vote pass after abortion-rights lawmakers, led by Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., concluded they lacked the votes to block the measure.
The bill still has to receive approval in the Senate – where the voting tends to lean towards pro-abortion. Nonetheless, one conscientious objector in the abortion battlefield – as it is addressed with daily in hospitals and doctors’ offices – has persisted in putting a doctor’s right to conscientious objection before Congress.
It is worth watching to see if the majority in Congress will continue to force other conscientious objectors choose between compromising their beliefs for economic reasons or to suffering economic loss for refusing sell out.