WASHINGTON (June 13, 1997) -- In a brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, the United States Catholic Conference and many other religious groups asked the high court to agree to review a case brought by those who say their fundamental rights, including the right of religious liberty, have been violated by Oregon's assisted suicide law.
Submitted to the Supreme Court today (June 13), the brief aims to draw the Court's attention to the "immediate and devastating impact" Oregon's Measure 16 has on the constitutional and statutory rights of physicians and other health care providers.
In 1994, by a margin of 51% to 49%, the citizens of Oregon enacted a law--it has come to be known as Measure 16 from its place on the ballot--which purported to create a "right" to assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. According to the brief, Measure 16 also commands physicians and other health care providers and institutions who are opposed to assisted suicide on religious grounds to participate in such conduct in various ways that violate their First Amendment rights of free exercise and association and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
"This case therefore represents not only a tragic affront to human life, but an assault upon the religious convictions of countless physicians and health care institutions whose health care goals are deeply opposed to facilitating the taking of human life," the brief said.
Oregon's 1994 law has been enjoined from taking effect during most of the past two and a half years while a challenge to its validity was being mounted. But a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently ruled that those who challenged the law lacked standing to do so. It is that ruling that the brief asks the Supreme Court to reverse.
In addition to the USCC, other church groups filing the brief were the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Evangelical Covenant Church, the American Muslim Council, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the Christian Legal Society, and the Christian Medical & Dental Society.