Religious freedom to discriminate | Sex in the suburbs

Let’s talk about sexuality and faith — and politics.

Recently, a federal judge in Texas ruled that doctors can discriminate against transgender people or women who have had abortions in the name of religious freedom.

As someone who spends a lot of time in the intersections of faith and sexuality, I find this decision offensive, ill-informed, unprofessional and discriminatory.

The American Medical Association, like many professional organizations, has a code of ethics. The most recent edition, adopted in June 2016, states “Physicians must also uphold ethical responsibilities not to discriminate against a prospective patient on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, or other personal or social characteristics that are not clinically relevant to the individual’s care.”

In other words, it is unethical for a doctor to decide not to treat someone because of their gender identity or because they have exercised their legal right to terminate a pregnancy sometime in their past.

This isn’t about mandating a particular doctor perform a procedure they do not know how to do or choose not to do. No one is being mandated to perform abortions or gender-affirmation surgery. This is about removing protection and allowing discrimination against people. It’s about allowing physicians to choose not to treat someone in need of care based on gender identity or personal or social characteristics — the fact that they have terminated a pregnancy at some point.

Most people who hear about the eugenics laws in the 20th century, which forced or coerced people of color into sterilization procedures, are appalled. They are disbelieving and outraged that this practice continued in a California prison until as recently as 2010. Equally horrifying is the syphilis study in Tennessee where African-American men were not treated nor even told they had the disease so that the progression of syphilis could be studied.

It seems we have short memories as a country — either that or we seem to believe that this will never happen to us personally.

But who’s next? Who else will some good ol’ judge determine doesn’t deserve to be treated?

Worst of all is the guise of this being faith-based.

I’m interested in how Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor — or any of you who agree with this decision based on “religious freedom” — think that is “Christian.” I wonder how someone can worship Jesus, who said to forgive “seven times seventy” times (Matthew 18:21-22) and to care for people who are ill, hungry, in prison, and poor (Matthew 25: 35-40) and then use that religion to deny someone — anyone, really — health care.

Over here at the intersection of my faith and sexuality, I spend a lot of time educating people about things like relationships, respect, responsibility, self-worth, body-image and consent — and how those intersect. Most of my time is spent helping educate people to be more informed with accurate information instead of myths, more communicative verbally instead of making assumptions, and more curious instead of judgmental with each other. To me, this is sacred work, and it helps people live healthier, happier and more-fulfilling lives.

Do I ever disagree with someone in a training or a classroom? All the time. Providing service to people I may not agree with comes with my job.

We live in a country that was founded on separation of church and state. Your beliefs are your beliefs, and you are entitled to them. You are not entitled to impose them on others, however, and deny them basic human rights like health care because you disagree with them.

Thankfully, in America, we protect diversity of faith and thought.

Or do we?

Amy Johnson is a trainer and educator in the Pacific Northwest. She is co-author of two books, specializes in sexuality education and in promoting safe and healthy sexuality culture in faith communities. Johnson can be reached at

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