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Conscience in Health Care: Navigating Tricky Terrain

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the third installment of Tanenbaum’s Health Care Insights series.

This month’s issue features a religiously motivated conscientious refusal involving attire in the health care workplace:

  • The Scenario: A Sikh physician wears a full beard due to his religious beliefs regarding uncut hair. This conflicts with the hospital’s policy regarding safety and hygiene.
  • Click here to learn about the religious context underlying the physician’s choice and how the hospital can find an alternative that can accommodate the physician’s requirements, while still ensuring patient safety.

For additional case studies from our medical school curriculum, click here. To learn more about the intersections of religion and health care, Tanenbaum’s full Medical Manual can be purchased here. (Contact us for discounted bulk and institutional purchase rates for the eBook version.)

In friendship,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

Dietary Restrictions & Health Care Resources

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the second installment of Tanenbaum’s new Health Care Insights series!

Each Health Care Insight will present a challenging scenario that sometimes arises in health care, and a download link to information from our Medical School Curriculum, where you will find context about the religious practice involved and better practices for health care providers.

This month’s blog post features religion, dietary restrictions and the impact on health care:

  • The Scenario: The son of an 85-year-old Hindu woman suffering from dementia is extremely upset, when he walks into his mother’s hospital room and finds her eating a meatball.
  • Click here to learn about how the mother’s and son’s religious beliefs influenced this encounter, and some better practices that health care providers can use to avoid or manage this type of situation.

For additional case studies from our medical school curriculum, click here. To learn more about the intersections of religion and health care, Tanenbaum’s full Medical Manual can be purchased here. (Contact us for discounted bulk and institutional purchase rates for the eBook version.)

In friendship,

Joyce S. Dubensky

Top News Stories 7/18 – 7/24

 

Palestinian boys play at St. Porphyrios, a Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza City where up to one thousand Palestinians have found refuge. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Approximately 1,000 Palestinians have found shelter in a Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza that was built in the 12th century.
According to a Reuters article published on July 22, 2014:

“We have opened the church in order to help people. This is the duty of the church and we are doing all we can to help them,” Archbishop Alexios said to a Reuters reporter while the sounds of children playing echoed down the hall.

“At the beginning there were 600 people and today they became a thousand – mostly children and women. Some of those children are a week old,” explained the head of Gaza’s Greek Orthodox minority.

Gaza and Israel: Which side is Tanenbaum on?
To read more about Tanenbaum’s perspective on the conflict in Israel and Gaza, view our blog post by Tanenbaum CEO, Joyce S. Dubensky

Germany, France and Italy condemn anti-Semitic protesters after violent clashes
Many news agencies have reported on the sharp increase of anti-Semitism, although anti-Semitism has been on a slow rise over the past 25 years. Newsweek reported on July 24th that the foreign ministers of Italy, Germany and France have issued a joint statement condemning anti-Semitic statements and acts that have been witnessed throughout anti-Israel protests.

President Obama issued an executive order that bans federal contractors from discriminating against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) employees. Obama first promised to issue the order during his 2008 presidential campaign.
The order does not include any language that exempts religious organizations from following the discrimination protections. However, there is a possible loophole – Obama’s order adds LGBT protections to a previous order signed by President Lyndon Johnson. Johnson’s order does have an exception that allows religious groups to hire only employees “of a particular religion”.

India Mental Health Care
PBS reports on how medical doctors and spiritual practitioners are working together to address mental health in India. There is a dire need for help; in India, only five thousand psychiatrists serve the needs of 120 million people. It is estimated that one hundred million people in India have “common” mental health disorders while 20 million have severe illnesses, e.g. schizophrenia. Watch the video or read the transcript for more.

Top five news stories you need to know.

Here are the top stories about religion that you need to know from May 17-May 23, 2014:

The Headwrap Expo: Shifting the Conversation • Orthodox Jewish woman says that school fired her for observing Sabbath • Vaccination exemption issues raising discrimination concerns • U.S. agency urges Myanmar to scrap proposed religion laws • Religious freedom linked to economic growth and innovation

The Headwrap Expo: Shifting the Conversation
On June 8  in Dearborn, Michigan, the 2014 Headwrap Expo celebrated interfaith dialog, fashion, and culture. Billed as “the art of headwrapping and scarf styling,” the Headwrap Expo was presented by the organization Beautifully Wrapped. The organization’s founder, Zarinah El-Amin Naeem, explained how the Expo is a celebration of “fusion — looking at how different cultural aspects, different things that people wear in different parts of the world are adopted across into other cultures.” Naeem explained how the Expo has broad cultural appeal and moves beyond fashion to address issues of unity. 

“It’s an intercultural, multi-faith event that brings together all these different groups…We have the Sikh Indians, we have Muslims, we have Christians, we have Jews, we have African Americans, African immigrants, everybody coming together. Once we’re there, we share, we talk about love, we have workshops, we have fashion stylings, fashion shows throughout the day. It’s a whole affair.”

Orthodox Jewish woman says that school fired her for observing Sabbath
Ellen Gastwirth, 41, was hired in 2005 as Director of Education at Temple Judea, a reformed  Jewish synagogue on Long Island. Gastwirth first encountered resistance to her Orthodox observance of the Sabbath when Rabbi Todd Chizner was hired the following year. Her requests for holiday time off were met with animosity. For example, in 2008, Rabbi Chizner questioned her observance by asking “What do you people do on that day that would prevent you from being here?” Harassment from the board of directors and the Rabbi led to the termination of her employment and a new Brooklyn Federal Court lawsuit.

Vaccination Exemption Issues Raising Discrimination Concerns
Two recent court cases address discrimination issues as they relate to objections to vaccination due to religious beliefs.

In Philips v. City of New York, parents argued that their children are unfairly discriminated against. While their children’s school district allows vaccination refusals based on religious beliefs, documentation is required that supports and explains the religious objection. Students that receive accommodation must stay home when another student at the school acquires an illness that is vaccine-protected. A federal judge rejected the parent’s claims, ruling that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause does not provide exemption from vaccination requirements.

In Valent v. Board of Review, Department of Labor, New Jersey Appeals Court ruled that a hospital employee who was fired for refusing vaccination is entitled to unemployment benefits. The hospital offers vaccine exemptions to employees for religious beliefs, however, they denied an exemption to the plaintiff because the employee did not object to vaccination due to religious reasons. The court ruled that this discrimination lacked justification and violates the First Amendment.

U.S. Agency Urges Myanmar to Scrap Proposed Religion Laws
In Myanmar, laws have been drafted that intend to protect Buddhists, the country’s majority, by regulating marriages and conversations between people of different faiths.

The U.S. State Department stated that the draft laws should be withdrawn and have “no place in the 21st century”. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom believes that these laws encourage violence against Muslims, Christians, and other religious minority groups. Additionally, the Commission stated that if these draft laws are passed, Washington “should factor these negative developments into its evolving relationship with Burma (Myanmar).”

Religious Freedom Linked to Economic Growth and Innovation
The Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion recently published a study that reviewed GDP growth in 2011 across 173 countries. GDP growth was compared to additional data including religious restrictions and the levels of economic and business related freedoms for each country.

Authored by researchers at Brigham Young University’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, the study concludes that countries that allow greater freedom of religion are more likely to have economic growth and innovation.

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation commented on the report findings by stating, “As the world navigates away from years of poor economic performance, religious freedom may be an unrecognized asset to economic recovery and growth.” Additionally the foundation explained that hostility and restrictions based on religion can create “climates that can drive away local and foreign investment, undermine sustainable development, and disrupt huge sectors of economies”

Spiking religious tensions worldwide: Top 5 news stories

Why religious tensions are spiking around the globeBritish Muslims with diabetes need more healthcare support during RamadanACLU accuses La. school of religious harassment • Eastside Catholic president resigns amid uproar over firingSikhs Fight Back Against New Pentagon Dress Code

 

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:
Why religious tensions are spiking around the globe

Global religious hostilities, including government restrictions on how individuals can practice their faith and conflicts between communities of different faiths, reached a six-year high in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center.

One-third of the 198 countries and territories included in the study, released this week, had a high level of religious restrictions, with an even greater share affected by religiously-based social hostilities that included verbal abuse, overt hate crimes, and murder.

“This is the first time that this study has found that social hostilities involving religion affect a larger share of the world’s population than government restriction on religious freedom,” says Brian Grim, the principal investigator for all five studies.

 

British Muslims with diabetes need more healthcare support during Ramadan

British Muslims with diabetes may avoid attending GP surgeries to discuss fasting during the holy month of Ramadan – with potentially serious consequences for their future health, new research by the universities of Manchester and Keele shows.

The first study in the UK to explore the beliefs which influence the experience and practices of British Muslims’ diabetes management found tensions often exist between observing the important religious ritual in accordance with their faith and the competing need to manage their health.

 

ACLU accuses La. school of religious harassment

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing a school board in Louisiana, alleging officials at one of its schools harassed a sixth-grader because of his Buddhist faith and that the district routinely pushes Christian beliefs.

The lawsuit was filed against the Sabine Parish School Board Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Shreveport on behalf of Scott and Sharon Lane and their three children. According to the complaint from the ACLU and its Louisiana chapter, the Lanes enrolled their son — a lifelong Buddhist of Thai descent — in Negreet High School and he quickly became the target of harassment by the school’s staff.

 

Eastside Catholic president resigns amid uproar over firing

The president and CEO of Eastside Catholic School has resigned amid unrelenting protests over her decision to dismiss the school’s vice principal for marrying his gay partner.

In December, Sister Mary Tracy fired Vice Principal Mark Zmuda, who also served as the school’s swim coach, saying his marriage to a man violated the Roman Catholic teachings he’d agreed to uphold when he began working at the school.

 

Sikhs Fight Back Against New Pentagon Dress Code

American Sikh leaders, disappointed that new Pentagon dress code requirements released on Wednesday do not go as far as the Sikhs would like, are turning to Congress to increase the pressure on the military.

The Sikhs, who want looser restrictions on turbans, head scarfs and beards in the military, are collecting signatures on a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel from congressional leaders asking the army to “modernize their appearance regulations so that patriotic Sikh Americans can serve the country they love while abiding by their articles of faith.”

Problems with religious rights and opportunity at UN: Top 5 news stories

United Nations too Christian, claims reportReport: 8 countries on UN Human Rights Council restrict religious freedomConcern Over an Increasingly Seen Gesture Grows in FranceNazi graffiti on Stockholm mosqueThicker brain sections tied to spirituality: study

Last week’s top news stories, from our perspective:

 

United Nations too Christian, claims report

Christianity dominates the United Nations and more diversity is needed to increase non-Christian representation in world peacemaking, according to a study.

Research undertaken by Prof Jeremy Carrette, with colleagues from the University of Kent’s department of religious studies, has revealed that more than 70% of religious non-government organisations (NGOs) at the UN are Christian, and that there is historical privilege in allowing the Vatican a special observer status, as both a state and a religion.

The report, called Religious NGOs and the United Nations, calls for greater awareness, transparency and equality in the way religious NGOs operate within the UN, and more emphasis on religious tolerance.

 

Report: 8 countries on UN Human Rights Council restrict religious freedom

Eight of the 47 countries that hold seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council imprisoned people in 2013 under laws that restrict religious freedom, according to a new report from Human Rights Without Frontiers International, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Belgium.

The eight UNHRC member states on the group’s second annual World Freedom of Religion or Belief Prisoners List, released Monday (Dec. 30), are Morocco, China and Saudi Arabia (whose new three-year terms begin Wednesday) and current members India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Libya and South Korea.

Hundreds of believers and atheists were imprisoned in these and 16 other countries for exercising religious freedom or freedom of expression rights related to religious issues, according to the report. These rights include the freedom to change religions, share beliefs, object to military service on conscientious grounds, worship, assemble and associate freely. Violations related to religious defamation and blasphemy are also included in the report.

 

Concern Over an Increasingly Seen Gesture Grows in France

No one seems to know just what is meant by the “quenelle,” the vaguely menacing hand gesture invented and popularized by a French comedian widely criticized as anti-Semitic, but it is clearly nothing very nice, and it appears to be spreading.

Fans of the performer, Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, send him photos of themselves performing the gesture in front of historic monuments, next to unwitting public officials, at weddings, under water and in high school class photographs, but also, increasingly, beside synagogues, Holocaust memorials and street signs displaying the word “Jew.” At least one young man appears to have posed for a quenelle outside the grade school in Toulouse where, in 2012, four Jews were killed by a self-proclaimed operative of Al Qaeda.

 

Nazi graffiti on Stockholm mosque

Swedish police have opened a hate-crime investigation after swastikas were spray-painted on the entrance of a mosque in downtown Stockholm.

Omar Mustafa, the head of Sweden’s Islamic federation, says employees discovered the vandalism as they arrived to open the mosque Thursday morning. He posted pictures of the graffiti on Twitter.

Mustafa said the mosque is targeted by hate mail or vandalism about twice a month, but this is the first time the entrance was defaced with swastikas since the mosque was built in 2000.

 

Thicker brain sections tied to spirituality: study

For people at high risk of depression because of a family history, spirituality may offer some protection for the brain, a new study hints.

Parts of the brain’s outer layer, the cortex, were thicker in high-risk study participants who said religion or spirituality was “important” to them versus those who cared less about religion.

“Our beliefs and our moods are reflected in our brain and with new imaging techniques we can begin to see this,” Myrna Weissman told Reuters Health. “The brain is an extraordinary organ. It not only controls, but is controlled by our moods.”

Atheists face death: Top 5 news stories

Atheists face death in 13 countries, global discrimination: study • Romanian state TV airs Christmas carol about burning Jews, celebrating Holocaust • Insisting Jesus Was White Is Bad History and Bad Theology • Rick Warren’s bogus Jewish deli analogy • Health Matters: Medicine’s Growing Spirituality

Last week’s top news stories, from our perspective:
Atheists face death in 13 countries, global discrimination: study

In 13 countries around the world, all of them Muslim, people who openly espouse atheism or reject the official state religion of Islam face execution under the law, according to a detailed study issued on Tuesday.

And beyond the Islamic nations, even some of the West’s apparently most democratic governments at best discriminate against citizens who have no belief in a god and at worst can jail them for offences dubbed blasphemy, it said.

The study, The Freethought Report 2013, was issued by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), a global body uniting atheists, agnostics and other religious skeptics, to mark United Nations’ Human Rights Day on Tuesday.

(Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)
Romanian state TV airs Christmas carol about burning Jews, celebrating Holocaust

A Romanian public broadcaster distanced itself from a Christmas carol celebrating the Holocaust that aired on the new channel. TVR3 Verde, a television channel for rural communities, presented the carol on December 5 during its maiden transmission.

Sung by the Dor Transilvan ensemble, it featured the lyrics: “The kikes, damn kikes, Holy God would not leave the kike alive, neither in heaven nor on earth, only in the chimney as smoke, this is what the kike is good for, to make kike smoke through the chimney on the street.”

In a statement Tuesday, TVR3 said it did not select the carol but only broadcast songs that were chosen and compiled by the Center for Preservation and Promotion of Traditional Culture, which belongs to the eastern county of Cluj.
Insisting Jesus Was White Is Bad History and Bad Theology

Fox News television host Megyn Kelly told viewers on her December 11 broadcast that Jesus and Santa are both white men.

“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change,” Kelly said. “Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?”

Setting aside the ridiculousness of creating rigidly racial depictions of a fictitious character that does not actually exist—sorry, kids—like Santa, Kelly has made a more serious error about Jesus. The scholarly consensus is actually that Jesus was, like most first-century Jews, probably a dark-skinned man. If he were taking the red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York today, Jesus might be profiled for additional security screening by TSA.
Rick Warren’s bogus Jewish deli analogy

Speaking on Huffpost Live a couple of days ago, Rick Warren compared Obamacare’s contraception mandate to a law requiring Jewish deli owners to sell pork, saying that if the latter took place, “I would be out there with the rabbis protesting that. Why? I don’t have a problem with pork, but I believe in your right to not have to sell pork if it’s not in your faith.”

Let it be noted that Warren plagiarized…well, appropriated…this analogy from Archbishop William Lori, who, testifying before Congress in his capacity as chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty in February of last year, delivered himself of The Parable of the Kosher Deli. As I tried to make clear, the analogy didn’t work then, and it hasn’t improved with age. If I may be permitted to cannibalize myself…
Health Matters: Medicine’s Growing Spirituality

In a health crisis, patients and families may turn to a member of the hospital staff who offers help beyond the physical aspects of medical treatment: the chaplain.

With growing recognition of the role of spirituality in health care, hospital chaplains are being called on to help patients cope with fear and pain, make difficult end-of-life decisions and guide families through bereavement after a loss. They may help sick or dying patients reconnect with estranged family members. New guidelines call for chaplains to be included on teams of doctors and nurses who provide palliative care—which specializes in relieving the pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness. And chaplains often step in to help clinicians deal with their own feelings of stress and burnout.

Remembering Nelson Mandela: Top 5 news stories

Shaped by Methodists, Mandela paid tribute to the role of religion • Moscow mayor: No more mosques in my city • Ohio Amish Girl, Family Flee to Avoid Forced Chemo • Woman sues over Catholic hospitals’ abortion rule • The number one target for religious lobbyists isn’t what you think
Last week’s top news, from our perspective:
Shaped by Methodists, Mandela paid tribute to the role of religion

Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who died Thursday (Dec. 5), had a deep connection with religious institutions.

Mandela was educated, first at Clarkebury and then at Healdtown, Methodist boarding schools that provided a Christian liberal arts education.

(Photo: South Africa The Good News / www.sagoodnews.co.za, via Wikimedia Commons)
Moscow mayor: No more mosques in my city

In an interview with the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda on Wednesday, Mr. Sobyanin said that Moscow has about two million foreign residents, the vast bulk of them migrant workers from former Soviet Central Asia who are mainly Muslim. The city’s economy “could not manage without them,” he admitted.

But he insisted that the vast throngs of Muslims who fill Moscow streets and wait, often for many hours, to enter the city’s few existing mosques are mostly people who come from outside the city limits and therefore have no right to be catered to.
Ohio Amish Girl, Family Flee to Avoid Forced Chemo

A 10-year-old Amish girl with leukemia and her parents have fled their home in Ohio, leaving the country at one point, so that she won’t be forced into resuming chemotherapy treatments, the family’s attorney said Wednesday.

The family has been fighting a hospital in court for months after the parents decided to halt the treatments because they were making the girl sick.
Woman sues over Catholic hospitals’ abortion rule

A Michigan woman is taking on the nation’s Catholic hospitals in federal court, alleging they are forcing pregnant women in crisis into having painful miscarriages rather than terminate the pregnancy — and not giving them any options.

The Muskegon woman, who developed an infection and miscarried 18 weeks into her pregnancy, sued the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Monday, alleging the group’s anti-abortion directive denies proper medical care to women like herself.
The number one target for religious lobbyists isn’t what you think

Which bill in Congress affects the deficit, abortion funding, gay rights, religious liberty, peace, nuclear arms, Israel, and even homeschooling?  The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

We reviewed the lobbying activity of over 300 religious interest groups.  Of the over 500 bills that these interest groups lobbied on over the past two years, the annual defense spending bills were, by far, the biggest target of their advocacy.

Tanenbaum’s Top Five New Stories

Popes headed toward sainthood • Transgendered minister opens up about his experiences • Jimmy Carter speaks out against the abuse of women • Faith healing parents’ homicide conviction upheld • Muslims & Jews gather in Sarjevo to combat religious prejudice

Last week's top stories from Tanenbaum's perspective: 

Popes headed toward sainthood
The Washington Post
Last week, good news rained upon popes named John. Pope Francis approved John Paul II for sainthood and decided to canonize John XXIII. According to the article, “Francis approved a decree that a Costa Rican woman’s inexplicable cure from a deadly brain aneurism was the ‘miracle’ needed to canonize John Paul.” Pope Francis also deemed that only one miracle attributed to John XXIII’s intercession was sufficient for his canonization. Read more…

Transgendered minister opens up about his experiencesThe Huffington Post
What if one Sunday, you attended a service at your church and your minister – after 28 years of service – decided to reveal that he was born a female? For Rev. David Weekly, a United Methodist minister, “There was a lot of support, but a lot of push back.” Learn more…

Jimmy Carter speaks out against the abuse of womenReligion News Service
At “Mobilizing Faith for Women: Engaging the Power of Religion and Belief to Advance Human Rights and Dignity,” President Jimmy Carter opened his remarks by calling the abuses of women “the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violations on earth.” Discover more about Carter’s thoughts on the intersection of religion and women’s rights.

Faith healing parents’ homicide conviction upheldNational Public Radio
Did you know that 303 children have died since 1975 after medical care was withheld on religious grounds? In 2008, one 11-year-old diabetic girl died on Easter Sunday because her parents refused to bring her to the doctor. The parents preferred prayer and were convicted of homicide one year later. Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 6-1 “that the state's immunity provisions for prayer treatment parents protect them from child abuse charges but nothing else.”  After the decision was announced, the father’s lawyer said, “"If I was advising a parent on faith healing, I'd say there is no privilege," Miller said. "They pretty much gutted it." Read more…

Muslims & Jews gather in Sarjevo to combat religious prejudiceThe Huffington Post
A group of Muslims and Jews gathered in Sarajevo to combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The goal of the conference, organized by The Muslim Jewish Conference in Vienna, “"is to provide the next generation with a learning experience for life and a positive outlook for establishing intercultural relations and sustaining Muslim-Jewish partnerships." Learn more…

US Christian soldier with “Muslim” name harassed, considered suicide

What happens when someone who isn’t a Muslim gets harassed over their Muslim name?

Yesterday, the AP reported about a US Army sergeant who, because of her name, was harassed by fellow soldiers who thought she was Muslim. She filed complaints with her superiors but said, "Any time I would say something about it I was treated like I didn't know what I was talking about or that I'm an idiot or that I was a Muslim sympathizer.”

The Army won’t comment on the case and the Army’s lawyers won’t comment on the case. Take a few minutes to read the story on The Huffington Post and leave us your comments below.