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Equality v. Conscience: The Dilemmas of Public Service Provision

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Submitted to The Philosophers' Magazine. 2013
Abstract Should Catholic adoption agencies be required to serve gay couples because they are willing to serve non-Catholics? Should Catholic hospitals be required to provide contraceptives to those who want them? Such questions lie at the heart of contemporary controversy, in Britain and the USA, over the appropriate scope for conscientious exemptions from antidiscrimination law, and over the implications of allowing voluntary associations a role in providing important public goods and services. Freedom of conscience requires that faith-based institutions be free to serve their members’ needs in accordance with their religious teachings. But what should happen when faith-based institutions serve the general public, often with public funds? There are two logically coherent but opposed answers to these questions: ‘conscience trumps all’ and ‘equality trumps all’. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York and President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, represents the first position, and the British Humanist Society represents the second. Both positions are too absolute to be persuasive. However, they illuminate the complexities of the issues, and the scope for political choice in crafting morally acceptable solutions to these complex problems.
Keywords ConsciencePublic serviceVoluntary associationsAdoptionHealthcareEqualityMoralityPoliticsPublic policy
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LEVER, Annabelle. Equality v. Conscience: The Dilemmas of Public Service Provision. Submitted to: The Philosophers Magazine, 2013. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:26839

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Deposited on : 2013-03-18

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