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Court: California cannot compel Christian doctors to participate in assisted suicide

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Christian doctors and conscientious objectors in California secured yet another victory for religious freedom when a district court ruled that the state cannot compel medical professionals to participate in assisted suicide against their moral and religious beliefs.

On Tuesday, the district court in the Central District of California ruled that the state law legalizing physician-assisted suicide unlawfully compelled Christian doctors to participate in the assisted suicide process. As written, California Senate Bill 380, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October 2021, forces Christian doctors to "document the date of the individual’s request [for euthanasia] and the provider’s notice of their objection, and transfer their relevant medical record upon request." The court determined that filling out the required documentation constituted "a violation of a constitutional right" which forces "non-participating providers" to participate in the process despite their religious objections.

Alliance Defending Freedom — which describes itself as "the world's largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and God's design for marriage and family" and which provided legal counsel for the plaintiffs — is proud of this legal victory.

"Our clients seek to live out their faith in their medical practice, and that includes valuing every human life entrusted to their care. Participating in physician-assisted suicide very clearly would violate their consciences,” said Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for ADF who argued on behalf of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations and one Christian doctor who objected to the law.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in an email that his office is “reviewing the decision.”

This decision comes amid a series of California court decisions which have favored religious liberties and broadened the practical implications of the First Amendment. Last month, California's 6th district court of appeals ruled that fines and contempt of court charges imposed on pastors who held services during state-mandated lockdowns violated the First Amendment. Then just last week, the state's eastern district court ruled that the state could not force churches to pay for abortions against their will through employer-provided medical benefits.

Despite these recent victories, many Western politicians and members of the media are attempting to expand the practice of physician-assisted suicide. Canada will soon permit "mature" minors and those suffering from mental illness to consent to euthanasia, and a recent report from CBC suggested that the country's liberal assisted suicide laws would save "millions in health care spending."

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